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TECHNOLOGY

Mind-controlled robot unveiled in Switzerland

A professor at a Swiss university on Tuesday unveiled a robot that can be controlled by the brainwaves of a paraplegic person wearing an electrode-fitted cap, news agency ATS reported.

Mind-controlled robot unveiled in Switzerland
Alain Herzog/EPFL

A paralyzed man at a hospital in the town of Sion demonstrated the device, sending a mental command to a computer in his room, which transmitted it to another computer that moved a small robot 60 kilometres away in Lausanne.

The system was developed by Jose Millan, a professor at the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne who specializes in non-invasive interfaces between machines and the brain.

The same technology can be used to drive a wheelchair, Millan said.

“Once the movement has begun, the brain can relax, otherwise the person would soon be exhausted,” he said.

But the technology has its limits, he added. The brain signals can be scrambled if too many people are gathered around a wheelchair, for example.

Besides making paraplegics mobile, neuroprosthetics could be used to help patients recover lost senses, researchers said.

Professor Stephanie Lacour and her team are working on an “electric skin” for amputees, a glove fitted with tiny sensors that would send information directly to the user’s nervous system.

Eventually, researchers say they hope to create mechanized prosthetics that are as mobile and sensitive as a natural hand, Lacour said.

Other researchers at Lausanne are working on enabling paraplegics to walk again with electrodes implanted in their spinal cords.

“The goal is that after a year of training with a robotic aide, the patient will be able to walk without a robot. The electrodes would stay implanted for life,” said Professor Gregoire Courtine.

He said he is currently setting up clinical trials and hopes to run tests at Zurich’s university hospital within a year.

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ZURICH

Swiss rail to close ticket counters in Zurich, Bern, Vaud, Ticino and Zug

Switzerland’s Federal Railways (SBB) will be removing the ticket counter from nine stations in the cantons of Zurich, Vaud, Bern, Zug and Ticino

Swiss rail to close ticket counters in Zurich, Bern, Vaud, Ticino and Zug

The SBB made the announcement on Wednesday, saying the decision was made due to a lack of demand. 

Instead, commuters will need to buy tickets from automated machines. 

In the canton of Zurich, the ticket stations in Dietlikon, Hinwil, Kloten, Männedorf and Oberwinterthur will be closed. 

In neighbouring Zug, Cham’s ticket counter will be closed, while the Herzogenbuchsee station in Bern will also go fully automated. 

MAPS: The best commuter towns when working in Zurich

In Latin Switzerland, Pully in Vaud and Biasca in Ticino will see their ticket counters closed. 

The SBB told Swiss news outlet Watson that approximately 95 percent of ticket sales are now made via self-service machines or online. 

The advent of navigation apps has meant the need for personal advice on directions and travel has fallen, particularly in smaller areas or stations with lower traffic. 

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