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Mind-control tech gives a man a new set of legs

Posting in Technology

Researchers at the Long Beach Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of California, Irvine have developed new brain-computer interface which allows a person to walk -- through mechanical leg braces controlled by brain signals.

The case report, titled "Brain-Computer Interface Controlled Robotic Gait Orthosis" is published on arXiv.

The metal braces, otherwise known as "robotic gait orthosis", were tested by an able-bodied participant placed on a treadmill. When given the green light to walk, the device measured small voltage changes -- electroencephalogram (EEG) signals -- emitted from the subject's brain.

These were then translated into bodily movements. In short, brain signals which would usually be sent to functional legs were translated by the mechanical alternatives. The technology is completely noninvasive, as the user's signals are measured through a head-cap.

In the trial, the subject was asked to imagine standing or walking -- and the results can be seen in the video below:

The movement predictions were approximately 95 percent accurate, although sometimes the machine moved when it wasn't meant to. The researchers say that after further development and trials on people suffering with paralysis, the technology could be used to help those with spinal cord injury paraplegia.

How would the Paralympics look if those with physical disabilities could use a pair of these?

— By on September 6, 2012, 7:57 PM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure