Not having a feeling in your joints. A situation where many people can’t imagine what it was like. A man who suffered severe spinal cord injuries four years ago after an accident could now walk again thanks to exoskeleton with Brain-Machine Interface.
“It was like [being the] first man on the Moon. I didn’t walk for two years. I forgot what it is to stand, I forgot I was taller than a lot of people in the room.”
The movements in the exoskeleton are still unusual and anything but easy, but with some improvement of the suit, it can make a big difference. The patient, called BBC Thibault, had an operation to place two implants on the surface of the brain to cover the parts that control movement. Thanks to more than sixty electrodes, the exoskeleton implant can measure brain activity and transmit instructions to the respective component of the robotic suit.
How does the exoskeleton work?
Exoskeleton Controlled by a Brain-Machine Interface (Source: The Lancet)
To enable the computer to adapt optimally to Thibault, the French researchers first tested the function of the brain implants using a computer game in which the patient was supposed to make a virtual avatar walk.
“It was very difficult because it is a combination of multiple muscles and movements. This is the most impressive thing I do with the exoskeleton.”
When Thibault wears the suit, he reads the brain activities using filigree software and converts them into commands for the exoskeleton. If he now thinks “run”, the skeleton converts the command into a movement. The same applies to the arms, which he can control by thoughts.
The French scientists say that they can further refine the technology. At the moment they are limited by the amount of data they can read from the brain, but with the development of new chips and the expansion of electrodes, movement can become more fluid.
Post picture: BBC