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A wheelchair controlled by the mind

London, July 23 (Reuters): Swiss and Spanish scientists are developing a mind-controlled wheelchair that could one day give severely paralysed patients new independence.

The system will use electrodes embedded in a skullcap worn by the patient to transmit messages from the brain to a computer which passes them on to the chair through a wireless link.

“Early trials using a robot indicate that with just two days' training it is as easy to control the robot with the human mind as it is manually,” New Scientist magazine said today.

The system has been designed by Jose Millan of the Dalle Molle Institute for Perceptual Artificial Intelligence in Martigny, Switzerland, scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and the Centre for Biomedical Engineering Research in Barcelona. The scientists are testing the system with a simple, wheeled robot using commands to turn left, right or go forward. It also includes in-built intelligence to ensure the robot does not collide with anything.

“The team is now trying to increase the number of mental states that its system can recognise,” the magazine added. If all goes well, Millan believes it will be the first mind-controlled system able to operate something as complicated as a wheelchair.

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