Japan's Honda Research Institute and precision-equipment manufacturer Shimadzu on Tuesday demonstrated a mind-boggling technology that lets humans control a robot through thought alone -- thus taking pesky button-pressing, voice commands and remote controls out of the equation.
But the technology isn't too advanced at the moment. For now, researchers are focusing on getting the latest version of Honda's Asimo humanoid robot to perform simple actions like raising an arm or leg.
The system involves a helmet full of electroencephalography and near-infrared spectroscopy sensors that monitor electrical brainwaves and cerebral blood flow -- signals that alter slightly during the human thought process. The robot controller thinks of one of a limited number of specific gestures they want from Asimo, which has been fitted with a 'brain machine interface'.
The data is then analysed on a real-time basis to distinguish what the user imagined, and transmitted wirelessly to the bot, which makes corresponding movements.
Researchers in Tokyo showed a demonstration video of the system in which a user is shown a card with a picture of a right hand on it. After the user thinks about his right hand, the command from the user's brain is transferred to Asimo, which acknowledges the request and raises its own right robotic limb.
Unfortunately, the scientists did not demo the technology live due to what they said were space constraints and concerns about possible distractions for the user -- presumably in the form of blinding flashbulbs and stunned onlookers' faces.
Honda nonetheless said tests of the system have produced results with 90 per cent accuracy.