Scientists create self-learning brain-machine interface for prosthetics

Brain machine interfaces allow those with artificial limbs to control them with nothing but their thoughts. They are, however, difficult to control and take patience and persistence to master.

But this could be about to change as researchers have come up an approach that may make the control of artificial limbs easier.

They have created a way for an artificial limb to store correct movements. When a patient is missing a limb and is using a brain-controlled prosthetic – which, officially comes under the discipline of neuroprosthetics – the brain sends out an Error-related potential (Errp); effectively an error signal.

Scientists from École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, have now used this signal to create new brain interfaces that they say can learn full movements.

“If we fail to grasp a glass of water placed in front of us, the neuroprosthesis will understand that the action was unsuccessful and the next movements will change accordingly until the desired result is achieved,” the institution says in a press release.

“The machine knows that the goal is reached when the actions performed no longer generate an ErrP.”

In essence it works by using trial and error to teach the system whether a movement has been successful or not.

“According to our expectations, this new approach will become a key element of the next generation brain-machine interfaces that mimic the natural motor control,” said lead researcher José Millán.

“The prosthesis can function even if it does not have clear information about the target.”

The study used 12 subjects, who were all asked to train their prosthesis to be able to detect the error signal.

They were then strapped into an electrode headset where the machine completed 350 separate movements. However, to teach the system when it was wrong, it was programmed to fail 20% of the time.

Those being studied were then required to complete three experiments using their prosthetic arms. The final one of these involved them being asked to identify a target that was two meters away.

The researchers found that the artificial arm stores the correct movements and build up a range of movements.

The research was published in the Nature Scientific Reports journal.

Wanted man captured thanks to facial recognition

A Chinese man who was wanted by police for “economic crimes” – which can include anything from tax evasion to the theft of public property – was arrested at a music concert in China after facial recognition technology spotted him inside the venue.

Source: Abacus News

SpaceX president commits to city-to-city rocket travel

SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell has reiterated the company’s plans to make city-to-city travel — on Earth — using a rocket that’s designed for outer space a reality. Shotwell says the tech will be operational “within a decade, for sure.”

Source: Recode

Businessman wins battle with Google over 'right to be forgotten'

A businessman fighting for the "right to be forgotten" has won a UK High Court action against Google.. The businessman served six months’ in prison for “conspiracy to carry out surveillance”, and the judge agreed to an “appropriate delisting order".

Source: Press Gazette

UK launched cyber attack on Islamic State

The UK has conducted a "major offensive cyber campaign" against the Islamic State group, the director of the intelligence agency GCHQ, Jeremy Fleming, has revealed. The operation hindered the group's ability to co-ordinate attacks and suppressed its propaganda.

Source: BBC

Goldman Sachs consider whether curing patients is bad for business

Goldman Sachs analysts have attempted to tackle the question of whether pioneering "gene therapy" treatment will be bad for business in the long run. "Is curing patients a sustainable business model?" analysts ask in a report entitled "The Genome Revolution."

Source: CNBC

Four-armed robot performing surgery in the UK

A £1.5m "robotic" surgeon, controlled using a computer console, is being used to shorten the time patients spend recovering after operations. The da Vinci Xi machine is the only one in the country being used for upper gastrointestinal surgery.

Source: BBC

Virgin Galactic rocket planes go past the speed of sound

Virgin Galactic completed its first powered flight in nearly four years when Richard Branson's space company launched its Unity spacecraft, which reached supersonic speeds before safely landing. “We’ve been working towards this moment for a long time,” Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said in an email to Quartz.

Source: Quartz

Google employees protest being in "the business of war"

Thousands of Google employees, including dozens of senior engineers, have signed a letter protesting the company’s involvement in a Pentagon program that uses AI to interpret video imagery and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes. The letter, which is circulating inside Google, has garnered more than 3,100 signatures

Source: New York Times

Computer system transcribes words users “speak silently”

MIT researchers have developed a computer interface that transcribes words that the user verbalises internally but does not actually speak aloud. The wearable device picks up neuromuscular signals in the jaw and face that are triggered by internal verbalisations — saying words “in your head” — but are undetectable to the human eye.

Source: MIT News

Drones could be used to penalise bad farming

A report by a coalition of environmental campaigners is arguing squadrons of drones should be deployed to locate and penalise farmers who let soil run off their fields. Their report says drones can help to spot bad farming, which is said to cost more than £1.2bn a year by clogging rivers and contributing to floods.

Source: BBC

Californian company unveil space hotel

Orion Span, a California company, has unveiled its Aurora Station, a commercial space station that would house a luxury hotel. The idea is to put the craft in low-earth orbit, about 200 miles up, with a stay at the hotel likely to cost $9.5 million for a 12-day trip, but you can reserve a spot now with an $80,000 deposit.

UK mobile operators pay close to £1.4bn for 5G

An auction of frequencies for the next generation of mobile phone networks has raised £1.36bn, says regulator Ofcom. Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three all won the bandwidth needed for the future 5G mobile internet services, which are not expected to be launched until 2020.

Source: BBC