A new invention enables amputees to control a robotic arm with their minds, making mind reading possible.


Through the use of electronics and AI, a research team from the University of Minnesota has made mind-reading feasible.

Amputees who are unable to use their muscles to control a robotic arm may now do so thanks to a device developed by researchers at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Compared to earlier technologies, this one is more accurate and less invasive.

Nowadays, the majority of commercially available prosthetic limbs are operated by the shoulders or chest via a cable and harness system. The native limb above the prosthesis that the patient is using is monitored by sensors in more advanced versions. However, both techniques can be challenging for amputees to learn to utilize and occasionally are useless.

 A small, implanted device that links to a person's peripheral nerve in the arm has been created by the University of Minnesota's Department of Biomedical Engineering with assistance from commercial partners. The device can detect and analyze brain signals when used in conjunction with a robotic arm and an artificial intelligence computer, allowing amputees of the upper limb to operate the arm only with their thoughts.

The most recent study by the researchers was released in the peer-reviewed scientific publication Journal of Neural Engineering, which focuses on the multidisciplinary subject of neural engineering. Jules Anh Tuan Nguyen, a postdoctoral researcher and University of Minnesota Twin Cities biomedical engineering Ph.D. graduate, said of the system, "It's a lot more intuitive than any commercial system out there." 

"With previous commercial prosthetic devices, amputees don't genuinely consider moving a finger when they wish to. Since the system detects arm muscles, they are attempting to contract those muscles. These systems need a lot of training and practice as a result. Because we immediately read the nerve signal with our technology, it is aware of the patient's purpose.All they need to do to move a finger is think about moving that finger.

Nguyen has been doing this study alongside Zhi Yang, an associate professor in the University of Minnesota's Department of Biomedical Engineering, for almost ten years. Nguyen was a crucial figure in the creation of the neural chip technology.

Yang was approached in 2012 about developing a nerve implant that may help amputees by Edward Keefer, a business neuroscientist and CEO of Nerves, Incorporated. The duo completed numerous successful clinical studies with actual amputees after receiving financing from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the United States government.

In order to commercialize the technology, the researchers also collaborated with the University of Minnesota Technology Commercialization office to create a firm named Fasikl, which is a play on the term "fascicle," which describes a bundle of nerve fibers.

It's crucial, according to Nguyen, that we have an influence on actual people and eventually enhance the lives of patients. "Creating new technology is exciting, but if you're simply conducting research in a lab, no one will really be affected. We wish to participate in clinical studies at the University of Minnesota because of this. I've had the honor of dealing with multiple human patients over the past three or four years. When I am able to assist someone move their finger or do something they previously believed to be impossible, I might become quite emotional.

The system's application of artificial intelligence, which employs machine learning to assist in the interpretation of the signals from the nerve, is a significant factor in why it performs so well in comparison to other similar technologies.

A lot of relationships may be explained by artificial intelligence, according to Yang. "This technology enables us to reliably record human data, including nerve data. The AI system can fill in the blanks and ascertain what's happening with that type of nerve data. Being able to integrate this new semiconductor technology with AI is a pretty huge deal. Many questions that we previously couldn't answer may be helped by it.

The device provides advantages for people with neurological diseases and persistent pain in addition to amputees. Yang envisions a time when it will be possible to access brain messages through peripheral nerves rather than invasive brain surgery.

The implanted chip also has uses outside of medicine.

To connect to the outside AI interface and robotic arm at the moment, the system needs cables to pass through the skin. However, if the chip could communicate with any computer remotely, it would enable people to operate their own gadgets—like a phone or automobile, for instance—using only their brains.

Some of these things really do occur. Many studies are transitioning from the so-called "fantasy" category into the scientific category, according to Yang. Although this technology was undoubtedly created with amputees in mind, if you consider its full potential, it may be useful for everyone.

The University of Minnesota Department of Computer Science and Engineering's Associate Professor Catherine Qi Zhao and Researcher Ming Jiang, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center's Professor Jonathan Cheng, and the entire team at Yang's Neuroelectronics Lab in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Minnesota are also contributors to this project.