TOKYO (AFP) — It may walk like a Japanese robot, but it's thinking like a monkey in the United States. Japanese and US researchers said Wednesday they have created a humanoid robot that acts according to the brain activity of a monkey all the way across the Pacific.
The experiment was part of efforts to develop prosthetic limbs which can be mentally controlled by people with disabilities.
A laboratory in the western Japanese city of Kyoto unveiled a 155-centimetre (62-inch) tall humanoid, with a friendly-looking face including bulging black eyes, who walked via signals coming into its legs through wires.
Researchers said the robot was responding to the cortical brain activity of a monkey that was walking attached to wires on a treadmill at Duke University in North Carolina. The signal was sent via the Internet.
"We were able to detect the monkey's brain activity while walking on the treadmill and relay the data from the United States to Japan," the state-backed Japan Science and Technology Agency said in a statement.
"For the first time in the world, we were then able to make our humanoid robot in Japan walk in real-time in a similar manner as the monkey," it said.
The robot was designed by the Japanese agency and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh to move by responding to brain activity signals.
Duke University had trained two monkeys to walk on two feet on treadmills. The activity of the animals' hundreds of neurons was recorded from their cortex and converted into data that could be transmitted online.
"We can say that we have made another big step to the realisation of a neural prosthetic device that could one day restore lower limb motor functions for paralysed patients," the statement said.
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