Remember the 1960’s Hanna-Barbera cartoon, The Jetsons? George Jetson had a maid named, Rosie The Robot. Good news! The day is coming when we’ll be able to hire our own Rosie — a mechanical housekeeper! And Rosie will know exactly how we’ll want her to perform her duties, simply by reading our minds!

controlling robots

How is this possible? The research to make this dream a reality has already begun: Today, researchers are using EEG (electroencephalography) helmets to mentally connect our minds to the operation of robots so that we can direct robots in object-sorting tests — like a supervisor giving orders to an employee at a factory.

In a project funded by the National Science Foundation and Boeing, a system was created to detect the brain signals generated when humans notice mistakes in robot job performances. Advanced algorithms identify brain waves almost instantly, allowing people to communicate with robots and correct their mistakes.

Participants in the program watched the robots and were told they had to mentally agree or disagree with how well robots performed a simple job. Here’s the cool part: People didn’t have to get used to thinking a certain way. The system adapted to each of them individually!

While the level of communication is still achingly primitive, the system will eventually become more complex and will one day allow humans to give robots multiple choice tasks! This will be a boon for people who have lost the power of speech, even allowing paralyzed individuals to control robots with only their brain power.

Imagine a future where astronauts in deep space mentally direct a robot to make repairs to the outside of their spaceship! Meanwhile back on earth, the day will come when you kick back in your favorite easy chair and mentally command your own version of Rosie The Robot to pop open your favorite cold beverage and serve it to you and, finally, find the off-switch for that out-of-control dog-walking treadmill! “Jane! Stop this crazy thing!”

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