We’ve come a long way over the years when it comes to robotics technology and prosthetics for the disabled. While we’ve almost completely mimicked the robotic arms that we saw years ago in Empire Strikes Back, we’re still working on getting a good level of control and articulation when it comes to legs and feet. Now a researcher at the Long Beach Veterans Affairs Medical Center in California has managed to create a system for controlling robotic legs with an EEG that could make wheelchairs a thing of the past.
According to the Technology Review, An Do and fellow researchers have successfully tested the real-time control system with an able-bodied person equipped with a robotic leg exoskeletal system. Using just input from the EEG translated by computer, the robotic legs moved in a natural fashion while supporting 85% of the individual’s weight. While it is still clearly in the early stages of development (there is a 5-7 second start/stop cycle which could be a huge problem for anyone wanting to try them outside of a treadmill), the new technology is the first step towards giving paraplegics the chance to walk again. Do claims that the test subject mastered the thought-driven legs in just 10 minutes, with no false steps.
It’s still necessary to do a full test with someone who is disabled, and an all-around safety and cost analysis before this tech makes its way into hospitals, but it is definitely looking hopeful. As DARPA is already working on an exoskeletal system for soldiers in the field, this tech could also be used to take over walking for a soldier who has been badly wounded, so don’t be surprised if you see them take an interest in this system’s development as well.