As several readers correctly answered in response to yesterday's April Fools Day blog quiz, the one real story was (drum roll…) the mind-reading robot!
Researchers from the Honda Research Institute Japan are working on a series of brain machine interface (BMI) projects, including one in which a person can control the movement of a humanoid robot named Asimo by thought alone, London's Guardian reports. A sensor-filled helmet detects the electric brain signals and blood flow of a wearer when he or she thinks about, say, raising their right arm. A specialized computer can then interpret that information and send it to the robot, which then raises its arm. According to trials by Honda, the robot gets the answer right 90 percent of the time. (The researchers, however, didn't note in the story what Asimo did the other 10 percent of the time.)
Couch potatoes rejoice: Honda hopes to expand BMI to plenty of daily tasks, such as household chores and heating and cooling systems. In such an automated world, as soon as you think about being hot, the AC would crank on – or perhaps Asimo would fetch you a cold drink from the fridge.
Last year Asimo (which stands for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility) even conducted the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. In that demonstration, though, he was programmed based on video of an actual conductor, rather than wired to anyone's brain. This creation isn’t as realistic-looking as some other Japanese robots: at four feet (1.3 meters) tall, the multi-million dollar machine moves its robot body with 34 different motors and is equipped with two video cameras in its head, according to the Guardian. But Asimo also has its looks working in its favor: research found that humans tend to prefer robots that look like robots to those designed to look like, well, them – an appearance they found a bit creepy.
Condolences to fans of CADIE (Google's hoax artificial online intelligence program). Perhaps Asimo can one day be trained to type email and chat responses as users think them.
Image courtesy of iStockphoto/peeop