Posts Tagged ‘Honda’

French Scientists Help Paralysed Man to Walk with Robot Exoskeleton

October 6, 2019

Friday’s I, for 4th October 2019, also carried the astonishing news that a paralysed man had been able to walk and move his arms using an exoskeleton developed by scientists at the university of Grenoble. The article, ‘Paralysed man walks with help of exoskeleton’ by Rhiannon Williams and Tom Bawden, on page 5 of the newspaper, ran

A paralysed man has been able to move his arms and walk with the assistance of a robotic exoskeleton suit controlled by his thoughts, in a breakthrough that could revolutionise the lives of patients around the world.

The 28-yeard-old man is paralysed from the shoulders down with only partial movement in his biceps and left wrist, meaning he is classified as a tetraplegic and operates a joystick-controlled wheelchair.

Over the course of a two-year trial conducted by French researchers including the University of Grenoble, he was able to move all four of his limbs through brain signals recorded and interpreted by the robotic suit.

The team implanted a recording device between the patient’s brain and skull either side of his head, containing electrodes to collect brain signals and transmit them to a decoding algorithm. Those signals were translated into his desired movements and communicated to the exoskeleton suit to move it, after activating a brain-operated “on” switch. The suit was suspended from the ceiling to allow it to balance correctly.

The patient trained the decoding algorithm to understand his thoughts by using it to move a digital avatar in a video game before raching out for 2D and 3D objects while wearing the suit. He spent 95 days training the algorithm at home playing the game and teaching an avatar to walk onscreen, and a further 45 days operating the suit in the lab. In the first two months, he was able to activate the switch 73 per cent of the time over six sessions, while over 39 sessions he was able to walk over a total of 145m.

The study, published in The Lancet Neurology, has the potential to enhance patient autonomy and quality of life. “Our finds could move us a step closer to helping tetraplegic patients to drive computers using braini signals alone, perhaps starting with driving wheelchairs using brain activity instead of joysticks and progressing to developing an exoskeleton for increased mobility,” said Professor Stephan Chabardes, a neurosurgeon¬† from the CHU Grenoble-Alpes teachinig hospital. The trial is continuing with three more patients as researchers seek to remove the ceiling-mounted harness.

While the study is a “welcome and exciting advance”, its findings are a long way from reality, said Professor Tom Shakespeare from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “Even if workable, cost contraints mean hi-tech options are never going to be available to most people with spinal cord injury,m” he said. “One analysis suggests only 15 per cent of the world’s disabled population have access to the wheelchairs or other assistive technologies they need.”

A related peace, ‘Success: Real-world results after months of training’ adds

Robotic exoskeletons have been touted for years as a way to increase the mobility of elderly people and those who have limited movement, with global companies such as LG, Honda, Panasonic, Audi and Hyundai among the investors.

The trial’s exoskeleton is operated by a semi-invasive brain-computer system, and is the first of its kind designed for long-term use to activate all four limbs, according to Professor Alim-Louis Benabid, from the University of Grenoble.

‘Previous brain-computer studies have used more invasive recording devices implanted beneath the outermost membrane of the brain, where they eventually stop working. They have been connected to wires, limited to creating movement in just one limb, or have focused on restoring movement to patients’ own muscles’, he said.

The exoskeleton in the trial has 14 degrees of movement, meaning it can move in 14 different ways. Over time the patient progressed from reaching towards targets on cubes using one hand to using both hands to touch targets including rotating both wrists after 16 months. On average, the patient was able to perform tasks between 10 per cent and 20 per cent more successfully with the exoskeleton than by controlling the digital avatar, suggesting he received richer feedback in the real world.

Here’s the picture that accompanied the article of the man wearing the suit.

As the article says, there have been designs for robotic exoskeletons for some time. IN the 50s – 60s American scientists had plans for one. However, only the claw was built because the motors that they were using were so powerful they would have shaken the whole suit apart. Then in the 1990s there were designs for robotic leggings very much like those in the Wallace and Gromit film, The Wrong Trousers. They were designed to help paralysed people to walk. Driven by electric motors and with a computer learning system, the trousers would have first been worn by an able-bodied person. They would have walked about to teach the machine how to do it. After the machine had taken in this information, they would have been passed on to the disabled people needing them. A similar machine appeared in the I a few weeks ago, when it reported the development of robotic shorts.

At the moment, I’m afraid Professor Shakespeare is right, and such exoskeletons are too expensive for general use by the disabled. But hopefully if this technology is improved and developed, the price will come down and something like this machine might become affordable. It would certainly improve disabled people’s quality of life. In the meantime, we could do much by giving far more disabled people throughout the world access to the devices and machines we have now, like wheelchairs, so that far more than 15 per cent of the global disabled population have them.¬†

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now Tories Troubled by Split

February 21, 2019

Yesterday, a group of three MPs, Sarah Wollaston, Heidi Allen and Anna Soubry, defected from the Tory party to join the Independent corporation, that had split from Labour.

At their press conference they gave three reasons why they had left. Heidi Allen said she was disgusted with the suffering the party had inflicted and its lack of benevolence. For Sarah Wollaston, it was the harm the Tories had done to the manufacturing industry. And for Anna Soubry it was the way her former party had wrecked the country with their massively inept handling of Brexit. Or it might have been Wollaston, who was most concerned about Brexit, and Soubry about the destruction of Britain’s manufacturing sector under the Tories. This is how the reasons for their departure was presented on one of the short videos on YouTube, although I got the impression from listening to Heidi Allen speaking on the 45 minute long video of their press conference put out by Channel 4 News that she was also concerned about Brexit and the attack on manufacturing, as she also ran her own manufacturing firm.

The Tories, who had previously been gleefully exploiting Chuka Umunna and company’s split from the Labour party, were left outraged in their turn. Hunt gave a speech saying how much he regretted the departure of such valued colleagues. Other Tory functionaries demanded that the Splitters should now call a bye-election. Just like the real supporters and activists in the Labour party have been demanding Umunna and his coteries of bitter Blairites do.

I don’t know how sincere Allen and her two colleagues are about the suffering caused by the Tory party. She made a number of speeches saying how upset she was by the suffering caused by her former party’s wretched welfare reforms, but voted for them all the same. So in her case it was, as Mike pointed out, a case of crocodile tears. She may be genuine, and that after years of dutifully following the party line her conscience has won at last. Or it may simply be that, like some other Tories, she’s just worried that the electorate will punish the Tories for the misery they’ve inflicted at the next election.

I think the three’s statement that they’re concerned about British manufacturing and the devastating effects of Brexit are rather more genuine. Margaret Thatcher and Blair in his turn ignored the manufacturing sector. One members of Thatcher’s cabinet, who was the only member in it from that sector of the economy, described how he couldn’t get Thatcher to understand that a strong pound would harm British manufacturing by making our products more expensive. She also uncritically accepted as an article of her neoliberal, free market dogma, that failing firms and industries should be allowed to go under, and should not be given government assistance. Which contrasted with Labour’s promotion of the National Enterprise Boards and state assistance for British industry, where the government would help firms acquire plant and equipment.

And as a good Thatcherite, Blair also adopted her destructive attitude to British industry. He was also quite happy to see British manufacturing collapse. Instead, its place at the heart of the British economy would be taken by the financial sector and the service industries. Deanne Julius, a leading official at the Bank of England, recruited from America, actually said that Britain should give up its manufacturing industry, and simply concentrate on the service industries.

The result has been that vast swathes of traditional British industry have been destroyed by Thatcherism, including mining. Which was done simply to destroy the miners’ union, so they could never overthrow a Tory government as they had Heath’s. However, as Ha Joon-Chang has shown in his book, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, manufacturing is still an extremely important part of the British economy. It looks weak simply because it hasn’t expanded as much as the other sectors of the British economy. But if it went, the British economy would collapse completely.

As for Brexit, the past few weeks have seen company after company leave the UK because of the Tory party’s incompetence. They’re leaving because we haven’t reached a trade agreement with EU, and so the tariff barriers that will be erected after Britain leaves will make it difficult for them to sell their products after our departure. The latest firm to announce it was closing down its British plant has been Honda in Swindon. When this goes, so do 3,500 jobs.

But I doubt that this will concern those in the Tory party demanding a hard Brexit, like the odious Jacob Rees-Mogg. The financial sector has also been hit, with various banks and international financial regulators announcing that they will leave Britain for Dublin, Paris and the Netherlands. But this doesn’t seem to dismay Mogg and his comrades. They seem to be all financiers, who make their money through investing in companies around the world. And so the destruction of the British manufacturing sector simply doesn’t affect them. They’ll get their money anyway.

The Tory party is seriously split over Brexit. It was to call the Eurosceptics’ bluff that Cameron called the referendum in the first place. He was so confident that people would vote ‘remain’ that he didn’t do any proper campaigning. The result was that he was astonished when the ‘Leave’ vote prevailed. But I gather that the Tories were on the edge of splitting years before, when Tony Blair was in power. Blair stole their policies, and indeed moved further right than the Tories had dared. The party was also split between the Tory paternalists and Thatcherites, and the rural sector, which believed that British agriculture and country communities were being ignored. I’ve heard it said that if Brown had won the 2010 election, the Tories would have collapsed completely, and would have tried to rebrand themselves instead as the English Nationalists. This has the ring of truth, as I do remember one opinion piece in the Heil actually recommending that the party thus rename itself.

I hope that the departure of Allen, Wollaston and Soubry will spark a series of other defections from the Tories and bring about the party’s much-need demise. It’s brought nothing but misery and poverty to Britain’s working people since Thatcher came to power in 1979. And even if the party doesn’t collapse completely, I want there to be so many defections that at the least it causes the collapse of May’s vile, malignant, destructive government.

Brexit: A Catastrophe, with Some Positive Aspects

June 25, 2016

Like very many people, the Brexit vote on Friday left me depressed. I thought it might be a narrow vote to remain like a number of other people I knew, including some who were actually in favour of it. The result, unfortunately, has been a very narrow vote to leave. I have to say that I think the relatively small majority involved means that there should have been a minimum number of votes established for the motion to succeed. This is a major constitutional change, and so I think something like the two-thirds majority many nations demand for changes to their constitutions should have been the minimum number of votes the Brexiters should have needed to win. This has not happened, and I can the rancour and division arising from the vote and the fact that it was so narrowly passed continuing for several years yet. And especially once the negative effects of the vote kicks in.

Cameron Has Destroyed Britain

Let’s start with the fact that Cameron has destroyed the United Kingdom. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU. As a result of England and Wales voting ‘Leave’, Nicola Sturgeon is now pressing for yet another referendum on Scottish independence. This time the SNP may well succeed. Even if they don’t, it will still lead to considerable constitutional friction as the desires of the Scots to remain in the EU clashes with the English and Welsh vote to leave. The result is going to be more division and acrimony.

And in Northern Ireland, that could be deadly. Despite the Good Friday Agreement and the peace initiative, there’s still very much sectarian tension in Ulster, and there is the threat anyway of a renewed terrorism campaign by dissident Irish nationalists. My own feeling is that the open border with Eire has had some effect in calming the political situation by giving the Irish Nationalists the opportunity for free contacts with the south, even if Ulster itself still remains a province of the UK. Very many people, including Mike over at Vox Political, have pointed out that the ‘Leave’ vote could cause further violence as the common membership of the EU was at the heart of the Good Friday agreement. That’s gone, and the treaty with Eire and the different parties at Stormont will have to be negotiated all over again. And if a referendum is called for the province becoming part of a united Ireland, the result could be further violence, especially from the radical sections of the loyalist community, who passionately wish to be part of the UK.

The referendum, so far, has done little except seriously to imperil the centuries-old union between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

More Attacks on Workers, More Austerity, More Racism

There are many good left-wing reasons for leaving the EU. However, the ‘Leave’ campaign was orchestrated by the Tory extreme right – Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Priti Patel and Gisela Stuart. Their main concern was to get Britain out of Europe so they could undermine further what few remaining rights workers have in this country, and so return Britain to the sweatshop conditions of the 19th century. People have died and seen their mental health made much worse already through benefit sanctions. Johnson, Gove and Patel will want to destroy the minimal welfare state that’s been left, including the NHS. The result will be further poverty.

And at the heart of this campaign has been terrible xenophobia, particularly directed against Muslims. Indeed, Farage criticised the early ‘Leave’ campaign because it was based on economic performance and the negative effects staying in Europe had on British business and the welfare state. Now the Brexit crew have admitted that their statement about the ¬£350 million a year or so they claimed was going to Brussels, would go instead to the NHS, was a lie. Some people are going to feel betrayed. They should. But more likely this frustration and anger will be directed at the immigrants, who will continue to be blamed for taking British jobs and welfare benefits, even though this too has been exposed several times over as a lie. The result of this will be that Britain moves closer to the American far right, with Farage or Boris assuming the role of a British Donald Trump. Mike pointed out in an article on Thursday that Brexit will not substantially affect the number of immigrants coming to Britain. Over half of them are university students, another few more are coming to fill jobs where no British workers are available, and the refugees coming to Europe are covered by the international legislation on refugees, established in the 1950s, not by European law. I doubt if there will be a rise in membership of the Fascist right, as this has collapsed since it reached its peak a few years ago. What will happen is that probably more people will join UKIP, and there will be increased racist violence against Blacks and Asians. And you can guarantee that it will be stoked by papers like the Daily Heil, the Scum and the Express.

More Poverty, as Foreign Firms Pull Out

Mike over at Vox Political also put up a piece yesterday stating that Britain is likely to lose a number of foreign firms, such as the various American, Chinese and Japanese companies, that have set up business here so that they can have access to the European market. Honda in Swindon have been one, and there have been others across Britain, in places like Sunderland, which voted to leave. Now that Britain is about to leave the single market, and tariffs may be imposed on goods from Britain exported to Europe, there’s no advantage for these firms to remain here. So many will consider leaving.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/06/24/euref-the-fairy-tale-is-over-and-the-ending-wont-be-happy/

A Few Small Reasons for Hope

I don’t think that, as appalling as the Brexit is, it’s necessarily entirely bad. It gives a little more space to save the NHS and renationalise some of the industries privatised by Maggie. One of the reasons why the defenders of the NHS against privatisation, such as the authors of the book NHS SOS have been so insistent on taking action as quickly as possible, is that neoliberalism is written into the EU’s constitution and particularly its laws on competition. These state that once an industry or state concern has been privatised, it may not be renationalised, and other countries’ firms should be allowed to compete with it. This was due to come into force this year, when foreign firms were to be allowed to compete to run the railways. This piece of legislation locks in privatisation, and would mean that under the current EU legislation, we could not renationalise the NHS when Cameron, Osborne and Hunt finally privatised it.

Now Mike rightly points out that the squalid Brexit crew will want to lock in privatisation, especially with the Transatlantic Trade Partnership the Tories are so keen to sign. This needs to be very strongly resisted. Nevertheless, I don’t think the Brexit vote has been entirely bad, if England and Wales can use the opportunity it’s provided to stop the completion of the process of privatisation. But this is going to demand a considerable amount of work, and will be blocked not just by the Tories, but also by the Blairites in the Labour party.