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Communications of the ACM


Overcoming Disabilities

Michel Fornasier uses his bionic hand prosthesis

Michel Fornasier, one of the presenters of the Cybathlon, uses his bionic hand prosthesis to demonstrate one of the Cybathlon disciplines.

Credit: BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

In the movie Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker is given a mechanical hand that moves and perform functions as well as his real hand. Konrad Kording, an avid Star Wars fan, has no doubt that advances in brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) will make this bit of science fiction a reality; he just doesn't know when.

"We have applications for one channel and a few channels," says Kording, a neuroscientist and professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Physiology, and Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. "The question is, what are the BMI applications with hundreds of thousands of channels, and no one knows that at the moment." The channels he's referring to are electrical wires or optical connectors that can be attached to the brain and can be controlled and measured.


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