Feeds

Now that's real science: CYBORG MONKEYS with PROSTHETIC ARMS

No, it's not the long awaited cyborg monkey butler

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Exciting news on various important science and tech beats today, as we learn that boffins have achieved breakthroughs in the allied fields of brain-chipped monkeys, robotics and cybernetics. To wit, they have been working out how to equip monkeys wielding robot arms with a sense of touch.

Rather than monkey, robot, or monkey-robot cyborg combination butler-Terminators, however, this research is aimed at making robot arms for human beings work better. This research is funded by our old friends at the US military bonkers-boffinry bureau DARPA, hoping to deliver better replacement limbs for American troops injured in the Wars on Stuff.

“If you really want to create an arm that can actually be used dexterously without the enormous amount of concentration it takes without sensory feedback, you need to restore the somatosensory feedback," explains Sliman Bensmaia, Chicago uni prof.

Bansmaia and his colleagues set to work on this using experimental monkeys. A Chicago uni statement describes the research:

The researchers performed a series of experiments with rhesus macaques that were trained to respond to stimulation of the hand. In one setting, they were gently poked on the hand with a physical probe at varying levels of pressure. In a second setting, some of the animals had electrodes implanted into the area of the brain that responds to touch. These animals were given electrical pulses to simulate the sensation of touch, and their hands were hidden so they wouldn’t see that they weren’t actually being touched.

Using data from the animals’ responses to each type of stimulus, the researchers were able to create a function, or equation, that described the requisite electrical pulse to go with each physical poke of the hand. Then, they repeated the experiments with a prosthetic hand that was wired to the brain implants. They touched the prosthetic hand with the physical probe, which in turn sent electrical signals to the brain.

It seems that, poke-wise, the monkeys didn't distinguish between fleshy and robotic hand stimulus. In Bensmaia's view, this means we're well on our way to artificial arms with a sense of touch.

“This is the first time as far as I know where an animal or organism actually perceives a tactile stimulus through an artificial transducer,” says the prof. “It’s an engineering milestone."

Human trials are anticipated within the next year, apparently, though we here on the Reg brainplug desk would note that electrodes inside the human skull seem unlikely to become a widespread solution. Human trials may well take place, but inserting electrodes for the purpose would be most unusual: normally such trials are done with people who have already had to have electrodes inserted for other reasons.

Still, there may be ways around the need for risky, dangerous brain plugs. And so we may yet see better prosthetic arms – even if not the long desired monkey butlers – reasonably soon.

Bensmaia and his colleagues' research can be read here courtesy of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.