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Planet Earth

Mind Controlled Wheelchairs, They're For Reals

Science Not FictionBy Eric WolffOctober 4, 2010 1:00 PM


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On last week's episode of Fringe, Dr. Walter Bishop, our resident mad scientist, remarked that he heard Massive Dynamics was developing wheel chairs that could be controlled with the mind. Hey Walter, we can already do that. Check it out: The subjects can think right, left, or forward , and the wheelchair responds. The chair, built by a Japanese government-funded agency called Riken, blows the doors off of previous records for how quickly the device responds to brain waves. The Riken chair responds in 125 milliseconds, far faster than the multiple seconds that had been the standard. The technology behind controlling objects with our brains has come far, fast: In 2003, Duke researchers taught monkeys to control a robotic arm, in 2005, Brown University researchers taught four quadriplegics to move a cursor on a screen with their brain waves. The subjects in that experiment had 70 percent accuracy. By comparison, the Riken wheelchair has 95 percent accuracy. You know we're speeding along with a technology when even a SciFi show like Fringe thinks it's futuristic.

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