October 7, 2015

‘Psychic robot’ will know what you really meant to do

Justin Horowitz, UIC graduate research assistant in bioengineering,
developed a mathematical algorithm that can “see” intention.

(October 7, 2015)  What if software could steer a car back on track if the driver swerves on ice? Or guide a prosthesis to help a shaky stroke patient smoothly lift a cup?

Bioengineers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have developed a mathematical algorithm that can “see” your intention while performing an ordinary action like reaching for a cup or driving straight up a road — even if the action is interrupted.

The study is published online in the journal PLOS ONE.

“Say you’re reaching for a piece of paper and your hand is bumped mid-reach — your eyes take time to adjust; your nerves take time to process what has happened; your brain takes time to process what has happened and even more time to get a new signal to your hand,” said Justin Horowitz, UIC graduate student research assistant and first author of the study.

“So, when something unexpected happens, the signal going to your hand can’t change for at least a tenth of a second — if it changes at all,” Horowitz said.

In a first test of this concept, Horowitz employed exactly the scenario he described — he analyzed the movement of research subjects as they reached for an object on a virtual desk, but had their hand pushed in the wrong direction. He was able to develop an advanced mathematical algorithm that analyzed the action and estimated the subject’s intent, even when there was a disturbance and no follow through.

journal reference (Open Access) >>