For a stroke patient, a 'smart' prosthesis must be able to interpret what the individual means to do even as the person's own body corrupts their actions due to muscle spasms or tremors. Bioengineers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have come up with a 'psychic robot' that knows what you really meant to do.
The team has 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.
First author Justin Horowitz said, "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. 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 further added, "The algorithm can predict the way you wanted to move, according to your intention. The car's artificial intelligence would use the algorithm to bring the car's course more in line with what the driver wanted to do. If we hit a patch of ice and the car starts swerving, we want the car to know where we meant to go. It needs to correct the car's course not to where I am now pointed, but [to] where I meant to go."
This algorithm may make it possible for a device to discern the a stroke victim's intent and help them complete the task smoothly. Horowitz said, "We call it psychic robot. This algorithm can be used to design machines that could correct the course of a swerving car or help a stroke patient with spasticity."
The study is published online in PLOS ONE.