Robert “Buz” Chmielewski is a quadriplegic man who lost control over his limbs 30 years ago because of a skiing accident as a teenager. Just recently, with the help of a team working on restoring movement in limbs to people with spinal cord injuries, he was able to command a pair of prosthetic limbs to cut a piece of cake and feed him – through brain signals!
Using brain signals to operate prosthetic limbs using Brain Computer Interface (BCI) is not new, and researchers have been steadily making progress in this field for many years. Normally, BCI focus on operating one prosthetic arm that’s controlled from only one side of the brain which works well for people who still have one operating limb. However, what’s remarkable about this particular case is that Buz was able to control both of his prosthetic arms simultaneously. As you’ll see in the video below, piercing the cake with a fork and holding it with one hand, and then cutting it with a knife with the other requires the use of both arms simultaneously which is considered a more complex challenge. The group was able to accomplish this by using artificial intelligence to partially control Buz’s prosthetic arms.
For robotics and BCI, this is an impressive achievement yet just the beginning. We still have a long way to go in advancing this ability and making it widespread but it’s certainly great to see this type of incremental progress being made.
Watch the video below to see Buz cut a cake and feeding it to himself using this BCI technique.
Additional reading: Johns Hopkins