The new neuromorphic chip from Intel can now smell and touch, and it is here to help people. The chip easily mimics the behavior of the human brain and functions properly to aid the needy. It is used in a collective, collaborative effort to develop a wheelchair-mounted assistive robotic arm for pediatrician patients who suffer from spinal injuries. This would help them to move more quickly and navigate the challenges of daily life.

There are millions of people who require wheelchairs. Many of them have upper-body impairments that make basic tasks like holding objects and writing excessively tricky. The robotic arms would be assisting them, though their exorbitant costs are high for many. To bridge this gap, the Neuro-Biomorphic Engineering Lab at the Open University of Israel, along with the ALYN Hospital in Israel, started a project through the Intel Neuromorphic Research Community (INRC).

Intel Neuromorphic Chip

Intel Neuromorphic Chip

Neuromorphic Chip

According to the researchers, the high cost of assistive robotics is mainly due to two factors: first, the high power consumption and second, the highly specialized, expensive parts that are used in the arms. The project by INRC aims to use ‘Loihi’- Intel’s fifth-generation neuromorphic chip to eradicate these barriers. The Loihi’s 128 cores have 131,000 virtual “neurons” that behave similarly like neurons in the human brain. They allow the chip to process stimuli faster and efficiently.

Neuromorphic Computing

The present team, assisted by researchers from Intel Labs, Accenture Labs, and Applied Brain Research (ABR), are looking at several advantages in a neuromorphic approach to assistive robotics. Loihi operates more efficiently in comparison to standard processors. It gives enormous benefits to energy costs and inconveniences. The researchers also saw fewer errors in complex path navigation when paired with neuromorphic chips with the recurring error-driven adaptive control hierarchy (REACH) algorithm. “The support from Accenture, Intel and ABR is helping us to explore the implementation of adaptive controls on neuromorphic hardware to address the requirement of a collaborative, user-friendly, accurate robotic arm at a reduced cost,” stated by the lead project researcher at the Open University of Israel Elishai Ezra Tsur.

“the Neuromorphic computing process is a natural fit for assistive technologies, because of its low power requirements and ability to adapt to new situations,” stated Mike Davies, the director of Intel’s Neuromorphic Computing Lab. These two advantages combined would allow the researchers to use less expensive components for the robotic arm.

Once the algorithmic work finishes and is tested on the Loihi-equipped arm, the researchers will evaluate and test the assistive system with children who used wheelchairs at ALYN Hospital.

“We believe that the new robotic arm based on neuromorphic computing can be a game-changer for the people with disabilities,” stated the general manager of ALYNnovation, ALYN’s entrepreneur inventor-facing assistive technology program Arie Melamed-Yekel. “The robotic arm could make it easier for people like them to engage with the community and also would boost their confidence and independence. It would also give them new employment avenues. We are highly grateful and proud to lead this revolution together with the Open y, Intel, and Accenture.”

The researchers are a vision ahead and looking for mass production for patients, and for applications outside the medical field, like manufacturing and industrial automation sector. “This research project is a robust demonstration of the impacts and benefits that neuromorphic computing can bring on the development of affordable, intelligent assistive devices,” stated Edy Liongosari, the technology innovation growth, and strategy lead and chief research scientist at Accenture. “Making these tech devices accessible, especially for young patients, can have a significant impact on their independence and improve their way of living.”