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Computer-enhanced monkeys learn to virtually touch and feel

Monkey Virtual Reality
Monkey Virtual Reality

Monkeys are known for being tactile creatures, but Duke University scientists are taking them virtual. Through implanted electrodes in the brain, two monkeys were able to move a virtual arm and distinguish different virtual "textures" through brain-stimulating feedback.

The technology behind this is a "brain-machine-brain interface" (BMBI) -- the BMBI allowed the monkeys to manipulate virtual objects and also provides feedback to their brains to replicate the sensation of touch. By rewarding the monkeys, they were eventually able to differentiate and choose between three identical circles and pick one associated with the reward based on electrical signals send to their brains.

Long term, the Duke researchers believe this could greatly increase quality of life for amputees and even quadriplegics by allowing them to both move their hands and arms and also experience sensory feedback. For now, check the video below to see the demonstration of a monkey manipulating virtual space using only its brain.