From Luke Skywalker’s robotic arm in Star Wars, to Steve Austin’s bionic implants in The Six Million Dollar Man, the world of science fiction paints a perfect picture of what prosthetic limbs could be.
But the world of science fiction could become science fact through a partnership between Limbitless Solutions and the start-up company Cortex.
Co-founded by Felix Sosa, a senior double-majoring in chemistry and computer science, and UCF alumni Shane Engelman and Max Jackson, Cortex is an open-source neurotechnology start-up that makes cost-effective brain computer interfaces, or BCI, and other neurotechnologies.
“The main value we go by is accessibility,” Sosa said. “It’s surprising how closed off this technology has been because it is so helpful to so many people,” he said. “We believe this technology has the power to change the human experience, but it won’t do that if not everyone has access to it. ... We want everyone to have this experience available to them.”
The goal of the partnership between Cortex and Limbitless Solutions is to use neurotechnology to create thought-controlled prosthetics. Limbitless provides the prosthetics and Cortex provides the brain control interfaces.
“Limbitless Solutions is excited to explore the endless possibilities of unlocking the mind, and the blossoming collaboration with Cortex is the most promising route leading to empowering people everywhere,” said Dominique Courbin, co-founder and director of production for Limbitless.
Cortex’s flagship creation is a medical-grade electroencephalogram, or EEG, that costs less than $200 to build. An EEG is a type of BCI that measures brain activity using electrodes attached to the head to record the electrical activity of the brain. A computer connected to the electrodes reads and records brain activity, Sosa said.
Currently, robotic prosthetic arms operate by attaching an electrode to the nearest muscle and triggering prosthetic movement — such as opening and closing a prosthetic hand — by flexing that muscle. Cortex hopes to innovate prosthetic movement by using the EEG to bridge the gap between the brain’s intent to move and the prosthetic moving itself. As a person with a prosthetic thinks about moving his or her hand, the EEG would detect the brain’s intent to move and trigger the prosthetic to move.
“So far, all we have is a working prototype. It is still crude, but it works,” Sosa said. “It’s kind of funny and silly to say, but I want to change the world,” he said. “I want Cortex to help humans take their brains back. ... Even if this all fails, I am just glad that it is happening [and] that I live now and that I have done what I have done.”
Eric Gutierrez is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @atticus_adrift or email him at EricG@CentralFloridaFuture.com.