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How Mind-Controlled Robot Suits Could Enhance Our Limbs

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Thoughts can control machines in more and more intricate ways.

In Episode 2 of Future You with Elise Hu, we explore mind-controlled robot suits and how they could end some disabilities as we know them or let able-bodied people gain super strength.

It sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but using brain signals to control machines is not only possible — it's improving fast. Just within the past few years, researchers have figured out how to let paralyzed people walk in a robotic bodysuit, or exoskeleton, simply by thinking about it. The promise here means that in the future, millions of people who are paralyzed or don't have mobility in their limbs might be able to regain it — that is, if the technology becomes accessible.

"The exoskeletons will improve — it's inevitable," says University of Houston researcher Atilla Kilicarslan.

When they do improve, what then? Where will humans end and machines begin? Explore the future of the human body along with us. Follow this series on YouTube and npr.org/futureyou, and send in your ideas about upgrading humans by email or through Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Elise Hu is a host-at-large based at NPR West in Culver City, Calif. Previously, she explored the future with her video series, Future You with Elise Hu, and served as the founding bureau chief and International Correspondent for NPR's Seoul office. She was based in Seoul for nearly four years, responsible for the network's coverage of both Koreas and Japan, and filed from a dozen countries across Asia.