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  • Monkeys control virtual arm with their brains, may herald breakthrough for paraplegics
    Monkey mind-controlled arm: It sounds like the name of an awesomely terrible sci-fi film or a fledgling grindcore group, but it’s a very real phenomenon, and one that could pay significant dividends for paraplegics everywhere. Neurobiology professor Miguel Nicolelis and his team of researchers at Duke University recently devised a method by which monkeys (and, perhaps one day, humans) can control a virtual arm using only their brains. It’s a concept similar to what DARPA has been pursuing with its mind-controlled “Luke” arm, with one important difference: Nicolelis’ system not only allows users to remotely execute motor functions, but provides them with near-instantaneous sensory feedback, as well. Most similar techniques use electrode implants to stimulate brain activity, but this can create confusion when a patient’s brain sends and receives signals to and from a prosthetic arm. Nicolelis circumvented this problem with a new interface that can read and transmit brain signals to an artificial limb, before switching to a receptive mode in just milliseconds.

    After designing the technology, Nicolelis and his colleagues tested it on two, electrode-equipped rhesus monkeys. One set of electrodes was placed in the motor cortex of each animal, with the other implanted within their brains’ sensory regions. They then trained the monkeys to look at a three identical objects on a computer screen and to “touch” each object with a virtual arm, controlled by signals sent from the brain electrodes. Only one of the three objects had a so-called “virtual texture,” which, if selected with the on-screen arm, would send a sensory signal back to the monkey’s brain (while triggering a tasty squirt of fruit juice for the lucky contestant). The two rhesus species ended up passing the test with flying colors, resulting in a “proof of principle” that Nicolelis’ system can send tactile signals to the brain in almost real-time. The scientists have already developed a way for monkeys to control the arm wirelessly, and are now embedding their technology within a full-body, mind-controlled exoskeleton for paralyzed patients, as well. Of course, the technology still needs to be tested on actual humans, though Nicolelis seems confident that he and his team have already cleared the most difficult hurdle: “Since we cannot talk to the monkeys, I assume with human patients, it’s going to be much easier.”

    Monkeys control virtual arm with their brains, may herald breakthrough for paraplegics originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 06 Oct 2011 17:44:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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  • IRL: AirPort Express, Jabra Freeway and rooting the Nook Color
    Welcome to IRL, an ongoing feature where we talk about the gadgets, apps and toys we’re using in real life and take a second look at products that already got the formal review treatment.

    Now that we’ve gotten all the dirty details on the new iPhone, we Engadget editors have a few precious days to kick back, unwind and futz around on our aging gadgets before Google and Samsung team up to announce a certain something something next week. Until then, Darren’s traveling from Japan to San Francisco and back — most likely with his AirPort Express in tow, Joseph is rooting the snot out of his Nook Color and Brad’s just trying to keep up on podcasts while driving the kiddies around.

    Continue reading IRL: AirPort Express, Jabra Freeway and rooting the Nook Color

    IRL: AirPort Express, Jabra Freeway and rooting the Nook Color originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 06 Oct 2011 17:08:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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  • DirecTV Nomad is ready to launch, transcodes DVRed shows for mobile viewing

    It was just about a year ago that we initially heard rumors of the DirecTV Nomad, and after some lengthy intrigue it is finally ready to launch. While its product page on the company’s website isn’t live yet, the folks at DBSTalk have been testing it and already posted one of their detailed walkthroughs, revealing the box as a TiVoToGo-style transcoder. Plug the $149 box into your whole home DVR network and it snags recorded programs and prepares them for viewing on other devices. Currently that list includes PCs with 1.2GHz processors or higher (no Atom powered netbooks invited to this party) and iOS devices, although an app for Android is apparently on the way. Compared to Dish Network’s Sling-powered TV Everywhere streaming approach, DirecTV’s sideloading has the distinct benefit of offline viewing, but without access to live TV on the go. The iPhone app is already available in iTunes and some forum posters report they’ve already been able to preorder the unit, but check DBSTalk for their breakdown and the device’s manual in PDF form before making a decision on your placeshifting future.

    DirecTV Nomad is ready to launch, transcodes DVRed shows for mobile viewing originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 06 Oct 2011 16:54:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

    Permalink   |  sourceDBSTalk, DirecTV, iTunes  | Email this | Comments

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