Thursday, March 17, 2005
Monkey See, Monkey Use Robotic Arm
I like to start my classes by asking students if they have any announcements, news, gossip, observations, whatever. Last year, one of the students explained a science project run by Duke University. Basically, a monkey was given the ability to operate a robotic arm. Other students had read about this also. They added that the monkey could use the robot arm in the same room, or even by remote control while watching a computer screen. No, no, said another student. The robot arm is hooked up to the monkey's brain through electrodes, and the monkey can move the arm just by thinking about the arm. And, another student added, the monkey can do this in California, even if the arm is across the country in North Carolina.
Anyways, this may give you an idea of the kind of work we get done in my class. We had a good laugh about all this, and the rest of us thought these four or five students were out of their minds.
Well, turns out: It's all true. And then some. The monkey's brain has adapted to the point where it acts as if the robot arm is actually an appendage and not just an external device. Check it out at the Duke University Medical Center.
And I'd like to point out (obviously) that most groundbreaking advances in science, literature, and art originate in North Carolina.