Robert “Buz” Chmielewski is a quadriplegic who lost control of his limbs 30 years ago as a teenager in a skiing accident. Most recently, with the help of a team working to restore limb movement to people with spinal cord injuries, he was able to order two prosthetic limbs to cut a piece of cake and feed it – using brain signals!
The use of brain signals to operate prostheses using the Brain Computer Interface (BCI) is not new, and researchers have been making steady advances in this area for many years. Typically, BCI focuses on surgery on a prosthetic arm that is controlled from only one side of the brain. This works well for people who still have an operating limb. What is remarkable about this particular case, however, is that Buz was able to control both prosthetic arms at the same time. As you will see in the video below, both arms must be used at the same time to pierce the cake with a fork and hold it with one hand and then cut it with a knife with the other hand. This is seen as a more complex challenge. The group was able to do this by using artificial intelligence to partially control Buz’s prosthetic arms.
For robotics and BCI, this is an impressive achievement that is only just beginning. We still have a long way to go in developing and spreading this skill, but it is certainly great to see this kind of incremental progress being made.
Check out the video below to see how Buz cuts a cake and feeds him himself using this BCI technique.
Additional reading: Johns Hopkins