Uma equipa do projecto VERE (patrocinado pela União Europeia), desenvolveu uma tecnologia capaz de colocar pessoas que sofrem de paralisia (do pescoço ou do tronco para baixo) a controlar um robot localizado a milhares de quilómetros de distância, apenas com o pensamento.
Para isso é usada uma touca de EEG que faz a leitura da actividade cerebral do “paciente” e é disponibilizado um ecrã onde este pode ver em directo aquilo que o robot está a ver (uns óculos de realidade virtual fariam um serviço melhor).
Each of the three volunteers in Italy donned the cap plus a head-mounted display that showed what a robot – in a lab in Tsukuba, Japan – was looking at. To move the robot, they had to concentrate on arrows superimposed across the display, each flashing at a different frequency. A computer could detect which arrow a participant was staring at using the EEG readings that each frequency provoked. It then sent the corresponding movement to the robot.
The set-up allowed the volunteers to control the robot in near real time. They were able to pick up a drink, move across the room and put the drink on a table. “It took just 6 minutes of training to start using the technology,’ says Emmanuele Tidoni at the University of Rome. “The feeling of actually embodying the robot was good, although needless to say, the sensation varied over time,” said Alessandro, one of the volunteers living with spinal cord injury. “When the robot was stationary the feeling of embodiment was low, but the moment I gave the first command or changed direction, there was this feeling of control and increased embodiment.”
A comparação desta tecnologia com o filme Surrogates, com o Bruce Willis, é inevitável:
Although we’re not yet at Surrogates-level immersion, the technology could one day dramatically improve the lives of people with paralysis, says Noel Sharkey at the University of Sheffield, UK. “This is a very long way off, but getting towards that for people who otherwise can’t move would be astounding.”
Paralysed people inhabit distant robot bodies with thought alone [Helen Thomson]