How to telepathically control a robot

Everyone has struggled with an unfriendly user interface at least once in their technological journey. Voice commands can be unreliable, and push buttons often process your commands too quickly or too slowly. Maybe you've even wished for a seamless interface that removes all of the unnecessary interactions and allows you to just visualize a request. While telepathy might not be a feature on your new TV, the next generation of robots, like Baxter, is using human thoughts to learn and be more productive.

According to Matt Simon for WIRED: "Today, communicating with the machines is mostly about typing or vocalizing commands, which creates lag time. Letting Baxter read your mind takes milliseconds. 'It’s a new way of controlling the robot that I actually like to think of as being natural, in the sense that we aim to have the robot adapt to what the human would like to do,' says MIT roboticist Daniela Rus, a co-author on the study. Namely, don’t put the paint in the wrong box, dummy.

The underlying technology is shiny and new and complex, but the idea is straightforward. When you notice a mistake, your brain emits a faint type of signal, known in neuroscience as an error-related potential. But that’s among all the other electrical chaos coursing through your brain that an EEG picks up, so machine learning algorithms sniff out the signal. When Baxter is about to make a mistake, the system translates the error-related potentials in the woman’s brain into code a robot understands."

To learn more, read "Baxter the Robot Fixes Its Mistakes by Reading Your Mind" from WIRED.