Thought-controlled robotic legs may still seem like the stuff of sci-fi, but for a group of scientists at the University of Houston in Texas, it is already a reality.
A research group led by electrical and computer engineering expert Jose Luis Contreras-Vidal is working on a brain-machine interface that could enable users to control a pair of robotic legs with their mind.
The scientists are testing the technology on the robotic exoskeleton developed by Rex Bionics, a New Zealand based company led by British healthcare investor Jeremy Curnock Cook.
"I have watched a thought control Rex in operation and it’s fascinating," said Curnock Cook.
Rex produces a pair of robotic legs that enable wheelchair users to walk otherwise unaided through a sophisticated system of sensors and balances.
The Rex boss stressed that he has no plans to develop a commercial version, but said a thought-controlled model could one day mean patients with complete paralysis could use the robotic legs.
"The reality is that [thought-controlled Rex] is not going to happen for a while and in many respects will be a special product," he said.
The robotic legs made by Rex are currently controlled by a small joystick at waist height, restricting their use to those with some movement in one hand at a minimum.
Curnock Cook's comments came as he unveiled the company's maiden set of interim results, following its £10m stock market debut earlier this year.
The company, which posted a £1.246m loss for the six months to May, is using its new funds to establish a sales force for the robotic legs, which have taken ten years to develop.