Chinese Scientists Manage To Control Machines Using Their Thoughts With 99% Accuracy

The Chinese space agency revealed that its astronauts will control the enormous robot arm of its space station with their minds, capturing and interpreting their brain activity using a new artificial intelligence system. 

It sounds like science fiction but they say it will be operational by the end of the year when the assembly of the Tiangong is completed.

If true, it will be an achievement unmatched in the history of space exploration or terrestrial technology. The engineers who have developed the system say that, in their tests, the new artificial intelligence-assisted control technology allows mind control of the robot with a degree of accuracy of 99%. Comparatively, current mind control systems range from 40 to 80%, something that is absolutely insufficient for critical applications like this one.

How does it work

As reported by the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post, the system does not require training or adaptation. According to a study published in the peer-reviewed Chinese scientific journal Computer Measurement and Control, "an untrained person can use it to issue commands with fairly high accuracy and speed ." 

The use of this computer-assisted 'telekinesis' is not gratuitous: in space, it is more difficult to use complex controls such as those required by the robotic arm due to the lack of gravity. That 99% accurate control, they claim, is more precise than manual control.

There are not many details about the specific technology developed by Professor Wang Congqing and his team. According to the SCMP, it is considered top secret, but we do know how it works in broad strokes. 

First, a device is placed on the head of the astronaut, who must look at a screen to move the robot arm. On the screen, different parts of the robot 'beat' at different speeds, and when the astronaut fixes his eyes on that part, his brain generates a different pattern of brain waves from other parts. Those waves are too weak to be interpreted directly, the study says, and are drowned out by other activities. 

Chinese engineers say that the key lies in the artificial intelligence system they have developed which, they say, analyzes the signals to 'guess' the operator's intentions.

Land applications

According to Wang and his team, the machine is 99.07% accurate for trained astronauts. What is surprising is that, in the comparative experiment with inexperienced people, the accuracy level only drops to 98.9%. The SCMP claims that the machine operates in near real-time, with a bandwidth of 150 bytes per minute which is "10 times more than was possible using previous technology."

However, it does not specify which previous technology it refers to, although we know that the Chinese have been experimenting with brainwave capture devices in space, as well as in industrial settings and with military applications. In its space missions, the Chinese space agency claims that it has already used brainwave reading systems to "assist" astronauts, although it does not specify how. 

According to the SCMP, this technology could also be used to coordinate the work between humans and robots to speed up production. Using a system similar to the one developed for the Chinese space station, the robots would accurately interpret their human counterpart's intentions without having to wait to hear or receive manual commands. 

Reference(s): SCMP

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