Computer scientists have used the power of thought to control a humanoid robot.

Wearing a special cap dotted with 32 scalp electrodes, an individual can "order" the robot to move about and pick up objects merely by generating brain waves that reflect the instructions.

Rajesh Rao, of the University of Washington, demonstrated the robot at the Current Trends in BrainComputer Interfacing meeting in Whistler, British Columbia.advertisement

"It suggests that one day we might be able to use semi-autonomous robots for helping disabled people," he said.

For the demonstration, the robot was in a different room from its human master. The electrodes pick up signals using a technique called electroencephalography.

The thought commands are limited to basic instructions. The robot can be told to move forward, choose one of two objects and bring it to one of two locations.

The Washington team plans to extend the research to use more complex objects and equip the robot with skills such as avoiding obstacles.