A brain-computer interface (BCI), or brain-machine interface (BMI), represents a method for connecting the biological brain to an external technological device.
“The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection” – Michelangelo (Graphic provided by T2)
Connections can be made by invasive techniques that involve surgical implants or non-invasive techniques where brain signals are received through external sensors. Current nonmedical uses of this technology include command and control applications, such as control of robots and virtual reality environments and for entertainment purposes (e.g., Stars Wars Force Trainer Game).
There is also the possibility for artificial intelligence (AI) technology to be coupled directly to the brain in order to restore neurological functions following a stroke, traumatic brain injury (TBI), or other organic disorders.
The idea behind these projects is to create software versions of the individual neurons and neural circuits that make up the human brain.
The mapping of the brain, at the neuron level, will ultimately allow us to create full simulations of brain functions and increase our understanding of complex neurocognitive processes such as memory, perception, learning, and decision-making.
Advanced software emulations of human brain function have the potential to improve what we know about normal and abnormal brain behavior. They will make it possible to model psychiatric illnesses and to test models of the development, courses, and outcomes associated with these illnesses, which will be far more sophisticated than computer models of the past.
Simulated brains can also be “implanted” into virtual bodies and simulated environmental changes can be manipulated so that researchers can test how the simulation will interact, learn, and adapt within a given environment.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the scientific study and engineering of intelligent machines.
(graphic illustration provided by T2 Telehealth and Technology)
AI technology can be designed to accomplish specialized intelligent tasks, such as speech or facial recognition, or to emulate complex human-like intelligent behavior such as reasoning and language processing. AI systems that are capable of interacting with and making autonomous actions within their environment are called artificial intelligent agents.
An emerging application of AI technology in the mental healthcare field is the use of artificial intelligent agents to provide training, consultation, and treatment services. Researchers at the USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies, for example, are currently developing virtual mental health patients that converse with human trainees.
One application is the design of “virtual veterans” with depression and suicidal thoughts who can be used to help train military clinicians and other personnel on how to detect the risk for suicide.
The continual advances of AI technologies and their application in mental healthcare lead to a concept that I call the “Super Clinician”. The “Super Clinician” concept is an artificial intelligent agent system that could either be in the form of a virtual reality simulation or a humanoid robot.
It’s that time of the year again. The birds are chirping. The sun is shining. The flowers are blooming.
See robot. See robot run. (Graphic illustration provided by DARPA)
Yes, that’s right. I’m talking about the DARPA Robotics Challenge. It’s back!What, did you think I was going to say summer? Puh-lease.
*inhales* Ah, I can practically smell the innovation in the air.
In case you didn’t read my post about this last year, the DARPA Robotics Challenge is kind of a big deal. It’s the chance for organizations and innovators around the world to show what they’re made of. Or rather, what they can make a robot out of, if you will.
I guess something you might be asking yourself is, why do we need robots? I think the question you should really be asking is, why wouldn’t we?
Simply put, humans are flawed. We’re limited. We’re fragile. We’re susceptible to illness, we can be emotionally compromised, we’re easily damaged. Our national security is vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters and there are often limitations to what humans can accomplish to help remedy these situations or mitigate further damage.
Today’s robotics are helping, but they are not yet robust enough to function in all environments and perform the basic tasks needed to mitigate a crisis situation.
When I first got the call that the chief scientist of the Air Force – Dr. Mark T. Maybury – was interested in speaking with me, I was equal parts excited and intimidated.
After some grueling and extensive research (and by that I mean I Googled him), the nervousness increased. I mean this man has a laundry list of credentials in science and technology that are so impressive Tony Stark would give him a high five. Come on, a PhD in Artificial Intelligence? That is the stuff dreams (and often superheroes) are made of, friends.
Don’t let the nice normal scientist look fool you. This man is one radioactive accident away from a superhero suit and a heroic catch phrase.
So it got me thinking. What do I ask that will allow me and my readers to get a glimpse into the real life of the Air Force’s top super scientist?
Naturally I took the most adult and professional route with this.
So if you were a mad scientist, what one thing or device would you create?
Remote controlled robots are finding their way on the battlefields, serving as improvised explosive device (IED) detectors. I would like to start calling them “battlefield droids” (so please feel free to spread this term around). What may seem like insignificant technology could potentially save the lives of the soldiers put in harms way on routine convoy and ground patrols.
Plus everything’s better with robots, right?
Video provided by AFN Afghanistan
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This video shows versions of DARPA and Boston Dynamics robots climbing stairs, walking on a treadmill and doing pushups.
A modified platform resembling these robots is expected to be used as government-funded equipment (GFE) for performers in Tracks B and C of the DARPA Robotics Challenge. The GFE Platform is expected to have two arms, two legs, a torso and a head, and will be physically capable of performing all of the tasks required for the disaster response scenarios scheduled in the Challenge.
However, despite the appearance of the robots in the video, the Challenge is decidedly not exclusive to humanoid robot solutions.
Any designs are welcome provided they are compatible with shared human-robot environments, compatible with human tools, and compatible with human operators so that a human without expertise in robotics can give commands and confidently anticipate the response. (more…)
Do you want two million dollars? Can you build amazing robots? If so, have we got the most awesome contest FOR YOU! No, seriously. This isn’t the premise for a 1980′s SciFi action flick. This is for real, folks.
Hey, haven't I seen you in a video game somewhere? (Artist's concept image courtesy of DARPA)
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is offering millions to the person who creates a robot designed to handle disasters of epic proportion. The kind humans can’t handle, no matter how noble or determined we are. No, not the asteriod-hurling-to-Earth type (although truthfully that would currently fall into the things-we-can’t-handle-no-seriously-Bruce-Willis-isn’t-going-to-save-us category).
All epic movie montages aside, DARPA really is looking for robots that can handle things that are too dangerous for humans, like the meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant last year.
This is more than just the work of a machine. This robot has to go above and beyond the call of autonomous duty in order to handle the kind of crisis we’re talking about. As awesome as that sounds, it’s not quite as unprecedented as you might think.
The truth is, the use of robots in serious situations is nothing new.