Inside the human body, the brain is the ultimate computer connected to the body parts to control these. Researchers and engineers work to design robotic frames that aim to help paralyzed people to walk again using the brain signals. MindWalker is the first exoskeleton prototype controlled by brain signals, a project started by the European Commission.
After three working years and new technologies developed, in the labs of several major universities and companies the first prototype took shape and was revealed. The external frame is connected to the human body, support the entire weight and move the legs in accordance with the brain signals.
Before the physical use of an exoskeleton, users have to learn how to use the brain signal system that control the exoskeleton. Developing a virtual-reality environment, users learns step by step how to control the mind-controlled exoskeleton virtually.
MindWalker can be divided into three main parts including the frame that support the body and animates the legs, brain signal reading system, and the simulation environment where the mind-controlled exoskeleton is represented by a virtual copy.
Researchers and engineers build MindWalker to be controlled in different ways, but only one control system is perhaps the best. Using an EEG cap to read the brain activity is perhaps the easiest way to control the exoskeleton for users. In addition, this control system uses a pair of glasses and flickering diodes located on each lens.
How Mind-Controlled Control System Works
EEG cap, sensors, a pair of glasses with flickering diodes, and the exoskeleton.
One EEG cap, a wide range of sensors that measure the brain signals, pair of glasses, and a frame that moves the legs according to user thought. Measuring the brain activity at various points, the EEG cap is the ultimate controlling system for the exoskeleton.
A problem strictly related to this method of control has to be fixed. When the exoskeleton moves the legs of the human, noises from electric motors produce false signals or uninterpreted readings by the EEG cap.
To increase the movement’s accuracy a pair of glasses with flickering diodes attached to each lens was designed. The complete system has a high accuracy compared only with EEG cap, but is uncomfortable due to flickering diodes.
When the diodes flash lights, the user has to concentrate on a side of the glasses. The brain process the light in a specific area according to user concentration while the EEG cap measures the signals. When the user concentrates on the left diode, the exoskeleton suit moves the left leg.
New brain signal measurement system and no glasses.
MindWalker is in its early stages of development and requires much more attention in coming years. The plans include another five years of research where development phases include an advanced brain signal reading system, ditch the glasses, and a new smooth and lightweight frame.
- Mind-controlled exoskeleton lets paralysed people walk, Newscientist