A research team from MIT, led by Nataliya Kos’myna, has presented the Ddog project with the purpose of transforming Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot (quadruped) into an elementary communication device for people facing physical challenges such as ALS, cerebral palsy and spinal cord injuries.
The project system is based on a brain-computer interface (BCI) that incorporates AttentivU, wireless glasses with sensors integrated into the frame. These capture the electroencephalogram (EEG) and the electrooculogram, allowing brain activity and eye movements to be measured . The Ddog project expands the application of the university’s Brain Switch infrastructure and technology, a real-time closed-loop BCI that enables real-time, non-verbal communication with a caregiver.
The role of the Spot robot in the Ddog project
Spot begins its interaction with a new user in a new environment by initially creating a three-dimensional map of the surrounding environment. The first iPhone then queries the user about their preferences and goals, to which the user responds simply by thinking about their desires.
The second iPhone is responsible for monitoring local navigation, controlling Spot’s arm, and enhancing Spot’s lidar scanning with lidar data from the iPhone. Communication between both iPhones is established to track Spot’s progress in executing specific tasks.
Another positive aspect is that the design of the system developed by the MIT team allows it to operate in both online and offline environments . The online version features a more advanced set of machine learning models and more precisely tuned models.
Benefits for users
Currently in the United States, there are approximately 30,000 people living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and an estimated 5,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, according to the National Organization for Rare Diseases. Additionally, according to the Cerebral Palsy Guide, about 1 million Americans live with cerebral palsy.
Many of these people, either currently or in the future, will experience the loss of skills such as walking, dressing, speaking, writing, and even breathing. Although communication devices exist, most are ocular and allow users to interact with a computer. However, there are few systems that enable interaction with the environment. The main advantage of Ddog lies in its mobility, as the Spot robot is completely autonomous and can perform simple tasks without intervention when given instructions.
It is important to mention that Spot also exhibits great mobility thanks to its four legs, which allows it to move practically anywhere accessible to humans, including going up and down slopes and stairs. In addition, its arm accessory makes it possible to perform various tasks, such as delivering purchases, moving chairs or carrying books or toys to the user.
What is notable about the system developed by MIT is that it only requires two iPhones and a pair of glasses , without the need for adhesive electrodes or backpacks, making it more accessible and practical for daily use compared to other aids available.
Definitely, the combination of brain-computer interface technology and the autonomy of the Spot robot opens new possibilities to significantly improve the quality of life of those people with physical limitations.
What other boundaries of innovation and support remain to be explored to take technology to new heights and make an even more significant difference in the lives of those facing physical challenges? The answer could be closer than you think.
Don’t miss any of our posts and follow us on social media!