But because the brain signal function was only about 90 percent accurate, the researchers added an eye movement component to make the system more robust. If a person wanted to let go of an object, she moved her eyes to tell the glove to release. That could help avoid accidents, like spilling hot coffee in one's lap, the other 10 percent of the time.
The technology, called a brain machine interface (BMI), has been around for several years, but this one differs from others in that it doesn't require the brain-sensing electrodes to be surgically implanted in the head, a procedure that is not without health risks. Instead, a person wears a EEG cap.
"Next we are planning to make these systems more intelligent and cosmetically less noticeable." Soekadar said. " We particularly aim for systems that users with spinal cord injury or stroke can mount unassisted."
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The researchers hope to eventually be able to reduce the visibility of the mechanical parts, potentially by 3-D printing exoskeletons tailored to individual needs. They also want to incorporate components of artificial intelligence like object recognition to the system to make the process even easier.
"Further commercialization depends on the industry's willingness to invest into such technology. After a growing number of clinical studies suggested that repeated use of brain-controlled exoskeletons can trigger neurological recovery, it is conceivable that hundreds of thousands of stroke patients could benefit from such technology." Soekadar said.
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