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Researcher controls colleague’s motions in 1st human brain-to-brain interface

University of Washington researchers have performed what they believe is the first noninvasive human-to-human brain interface, with one researcher able to send a brain signal via the Internet to control the hand motions of a fellow researcher.

Using electrical brain recordings and a form of magnetic stimulation, Rajesh Rao sent a brain signal to Andrea Stocco on the other side of the UW campus, causing Stocco’s finger to move on a keyboard.

While researchers at Duke University have demonstrated brain-to-brain communication between two rats, and Harvard researchers have demonstrated it between a human and a rat, Rao and Stocco believe this is the first demonstration of human-to-human brain interfacing.

“The Internet was a way to connect computers, and now it can be a way to connect brains,” Stocco said. “We want to take the knowledge of a brain and transmit it directly from brain to brain.”

The researchers captured the full demonstration on video recorded in both labs.

Rao, a UW professor of computer science and engineering, has been working on brain-computer interfacing in his lab for more than 10 years and just published a textbook on the subject. In 2011, spurred by the rapid advances in technology, he believed he could demonstrate the concept of human brain-to-brain interfacing. So he partnered with Stocco, a UW research assistant professor in psychology at the UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences.

On Aug. 12, Rao sat in his lab wearing a cap with electrodes hooked up to an electroencephalography machine, which reads electrical activity in the brain. Stocco was in his lab across campus wearing a purple swim cap marked with the stimulation site for the transcranial magnetic stimulation coil that was placed directly over his left motor cortex, which controls hand movement.

The team had a Skype connection set up so the two labs could coordinate, though neither Rao nor Stocco could see the Skype screens.

Rao looked at a computer screen and played a simple video game with his mind. When he was supposed to fire a cannon at a target, he imagined moving his right hand (being careful not to actually move his hand), causing a cursor to hit the “fire” button. Almost instantaneously, Stocco, who wore noise-canceling earbuds and wasn’t looking at a computer screen, involuntarily moved his right index finger to push the space bar on the keyboard in front of him, as if firing the cannon. Stocco compared the feeling of his hand moving involuntarily to that of a nervous tic.

“It was both exciting and eerie to watch an imagined action from my brain get translated into actual action by another brain,” Rao said. “This was basically a one-way flow of information from my brain to his. The next step is having a more equitable two-way conversation directly between the two brains.”

The technologies used by the researchers for recording and stimulating the brain are both well-known. Electroencephalography, or EEG, is routinely used by clinicians and researchers to record brain activity noninvasively from the scalp. Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a noninvasive way of delivering stimulation to the brain to elicit a response. Its effect depends on where the coil is placed; in this case, it was placed directly over the brain region that controls a person’s right hand. By activating these neurons, the stimulation convinced the brain that it needed to move the right hand.

Computer science and engineering undergraduates Matthew Bryan, Bryan Djunaedi, Joseph Wu and Alex Dadgar, along with bioengineering graduate student Dev Sarma, wrote the computer code for the project, translating Rao’s brain signals into a command for Stocco’s brain.

“Brain-computer interface is something people have been talking about for a long, long time,” said Chantel Prat, assistant professor in psychology at the UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, and Stocco’s wife and research partner who helped conduct the experiment. “We plugged a brain into the most complex computer anyone has ever studied, and that is another brain.”

At first blush, this breakthrough brings to mind all kinds of science fiction scenarios. Stocco jokingly referred to it as a “Vulcan mind meld.” But Rao cautioned this technology only reads certain kinds of simple brain signals, not a person’s thoughts. And it doesn’t give anyone the ability to control your actions against your will.

Both researchers were in the lab wearing highly specialized equipment and under ideal conditions. They also had to obtain and follow a stringent set of international human-subject testing rules to conduct the demonstration.

“I think some people will be unnerved by this because they will overestimate the technology,” Prat said. “There’s no possible way the technology that we have could be used on a person unknowingly or without their willing participation.”

Stocco said years from now the technology could be used, for example, by someone on the ground to help a flight attendant or passenger land an airplane if the pilot becomes incapacitated. Or a person with disabilities could communicate his or her wish, say, for food or water. The brain signals from one person to another would work even if they didn’t speak the same language.

Rao and Stocco next plan to conduct an experiment that would transmit more complex information from one brain to the other. If that works, they then will conduct the experiment on a larger pool of subjects.

sagansense:

Hot-Fire Tests Show 3-D Printed Rocket Parts Rival Traditionally Manufactured Parts

What can survive blazing temperatures of almost 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit without melting? What did not break apart at extreme pressures? What is made by a new process that forms a complex part in just one piece? What takes less than three weeks to go from manufacturing to testing? What can reduce the costs of expensive rocket parts by 60 percent or more?

Answer: 3-D printed parts

Image (above): 3-D printed rocket injector as it looked immediately after it was removed from the selected laser melting printer (left). Injector after inspection and polishing (right). Credit: NASA/MSFC

Engineers know that 3-D printed rocket parts have the potential to save NASA and industry money and to open up new affordable design possibilities for rockets and spacecraft. But until recently, no one had tested rocket parts critical to engine combustion in a hot-fire environment.

NASA engineers at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., not only put rocket engine parts to the test but also were able to compare their performance to parts made the old-fashioned way with welds and multiple parts during planned subscale acoustic tests for the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket. In little more than a month, Marshall engineers built two subscale injectors with a specialized 3-D printing machine and completed 11 mainstage hot-fire tests, accumulating 46 seconds of total firing time at temperatures nearing 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit while burning liquid oxygen and gaseous hydrogen.

"We saw no difference in performance of the 3-D printed injectors compared to the traditionally manufactured injectors," said Sandra Elam Greene, the propulsion engineer who oversaw the tests and inspected the components afterward. "Two separate 3-D printed injectors operated beautifully during all hot-fire tests."

Post-test inspections showed the injectors remained in such excellent condition and performed so well the team will continue to put them directly in the line of fire. In addition to the SLS acoustic tests, Greene and her team tested a more complex assembly of a 3-D printed injector and thrust chamber liner made by Directed Manufacturing, Inc., of Austin, Texas. Marshall engineers transferred a second 3-D printed injector to NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, where it will continue to accumulate hot-fire time to test its durability.

"Rocket engines are complex, with hundreds of individual components that many suppliers typically build and assemble, so testing an engine component built with a new process helps verify that it might be an affordable way to make future rockets," said Chris Singer, director of the Marshall Center’s Engineering Directorate. "The additive manufacturing process has the potential to reduce the time and cost associated with making complex parts by an order of magnitude."

Traditional subscale rocket injectors for early SLS acoustic tests took six months to fabricate, had four parts, five welds and detailed machining and cost more than $10,000 each. Marshall materials engineers built the same injector in one piece by sintering Inconel steel powder with a state-of-the-art 3-D printer. After minimal machining and inspection with computer scanning, it took just three weeks for the part to reach the test stand and cost less than $5,000 to manufacture.

"It took about 40 hours from start to finish to make each injector using a 3-D printing process called selective laser melting, and another couple of weeks to polish and inspect the parts," explained Ken Cooper, a Marshall materials engineer whose team made the part. "This allowed the propulsion engineers to take advantage of an existing SLS test series to examine how 3-D printed parts performed compared to traditional parts with a similar design."

View video of additive manufacturing inside Marshall’s 3-D printer.

Since additive manufacturing machines have has become more affordable, varied, and sophisticated, this materials process now offers many possibilities for making every phase of NASA missions more affordable. The SLS injector tests are just one example of NASA’s efforts to fabricate and test 3-D printed parts in relevant environments similar to those experienced during NASA missions. The SLS injector test series complements a series of liquid oxygen and gaseous hydrogen rocket assembly firings at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, which hot-fire tested an additively manufactured, select laser melted injector developed through collaboration of industry and government agencies. A J-2X engine exhaust port cover made at the Marshall Center became the first 3-D printed part tested during a full-scale engine hot-fire test at NASA’s Stennis Center. Marshall materials engineers are currently making a baffle critical for pogo vibration mitigation; it will be tested at Marshall and Stennis and is a potential candidate for the first SLS mission in 2017. Marshall engineers are finishing up ground tests with Made in Space, a Moffett Field, California company working with NASA to develop and test a 3-D printer that will build tools on the International Space Station next year. NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston is even exploring printing food in space.

Watch: Video of the test firing

"At NASA, we recognize ground-based and in-space additive manufacturing offer the potential for new mission opportunities, whether printing rocket parts, tools or entire spacecraft," Singer said. "Additive manufacturing will improve affordability from design and development to flight and operations, enabling every aspect of sustainable long-term human space exploration."

NASA is a leading partner in the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation and the Advanced Manufacturing Initiative, which explores using additive manufacturing and other advanced materials processes to reduce the cost of spaceflight.

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8bitfuture:

Video: Prototype ‘PaperTabs’.

The PaperTab tablet looks and feels just like a sheet of paper. However, it is fully interactive with a flexible, high-resolution 10.7” plastic display developed by Plastic Logic, a flexible touchscreen, and powered by the second generation Intel® Core i5 processor. Instead of using several apps or windows on a single display, users have ten or more interactive displays or “papertabs”: one per app in use.

Paralyzed Dogs Walk After Transplant Of Cells Taken From Their Noses

singularitarian:

British researchers successfully restored the ability to walk in paralyzed dogs. Special cells taken from the dogs’ noses and transplanted to injured areas caused regrowth of neurons. Within six months the dogs amazingly regained used of their hind legs and were able to use a treadmill, some without a harness. The researchers hope the procedure might one day lead to a cure for humans with spinal cord injury.

How NASA might build its very first warp drive

singularitarian:

A few months ago, physicist Harold White stunned the aeronautics world when he announced that he and his team at NASA had begun work on the development of a faster-than-light warp drive. His proposed design, an ingenious re-imagining of an Alcubierre Drive, may eventually result in an engine that can transport a spacecraft to the nearest star in a matter of weeks — and all without violating Einstein’s law of relativity. We contacted White at NASA and asked him to explain how this real life warp drive could actually work.

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