Embedded brain reading enables better human-robot interaction

June 06, 2018 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Buttons and levers are not the right way to control robots in real time. Even voice control may be too clumsy to cause the robot to perform the desired action. The aim of a current research project is to control robots directly through the thoughts of the operator. Thus, the robots should learn to understand and interpret humans.

Scientists at the Robotics Innovation Center at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) and the Robotics Research Group at the University of Bremen are investigating how robots can be controlled by thought impulses. Together they develop key technologies that enable real-time and adaptive embedded brain reading. This not only makes robots intuitively and effectively controllable on the basis of human brain activities. At the same time, the systems can interpret human thoughts and learn from them.

Robots can be controlled by human brain activity via brain-computer interfaces (BCIs). This involves electroencephalography (EEG), in which electrodes applied to the head measure potential changes in the brain. In contrast to classical BCIs, the holistic approach "embedded brain reading" (eBR) developed by the researchers of the current project goes one step further: brain activity can not only be measured, but also interpreted. In this way, intentions for action and the cognitive workload of persons can be identified. eBR relies exclusively on the passive observation of natural brain activity and thus avoids an additional burden on humans through the use of a BCI.

In addition, the innovative approach, which in addition to the EEG also relies on electromyography to measure muscle activity, eye tracking and motion analysis, enables complete and fault-tolerant integration of brain activity into the control of technical systems. Applications of this technology could be, for example, the teleoperation of space robots, but also the EEG-based control of robotic exoskeletons.


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