Brain-machine interface today, cyborgs tomorrow

While prosthetic limbs are common, real cyborgs remain in the realm of science fiction. That's because the trickiest part — creating a reliable brain-machine interface (BMI) — is a tough job, since we don't fully understand how the brain works. One man on the case, however, is Miguel Nicolelis, who's developed a chip that lets human brains communicate directly with robotic limbs, whether they're in the same room or on the other side of the world.

Speaking on a panel at the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) 125th Anniversary event in New York City today, Nicolelis talked about a monkey implanted with his BMI in North Carolina was able to control a robot in Kyoto just by thinking. His next project: Building a type of exoskeleton that would let paraplegics walk again.

So when do we start preparing for a war with the Cybermen? Not for a while — Nicolelis' miracle exo-suit won't be here till 2012 at the earliest. And motor control is relatively easy compared to something like full-color vision, he said, so we needn't fear cybernetic beings… yet.

Via Nicolelis Lab