Stories tagged monkey

Find out the latest shenanigans of a deer and a monkey.

Jan
27
2008

Japanese monkey technology: Unlike anything we've ever seen.
Japanese monkey technology: Unlike anything we've ever seen.Courtesy Foraggio
Thanks to the work of Japanese and American scientists, a Japanese robot has been made to walk by signals coming from a monkey’s brain. A monkey-brained robot, if you will.

It leads me to wonder what robot monkeys are supposed to fling at visitors to the robot zoo. Chunks of metal, I’m guessing, if there are any left lying around, although apparently this wasn’t the focus of the project.

This is how it worked, basically: researchers at Duke University trained a monkey to walk on a treadmill (the least fun part of the experiment, I’m sure), and then jammed a bunch of wires into its brain (the most fun part of the experiment). The monkey was then made to take a stroll on the treadmill, and its neuron activity was recorded and translated into data that could be sent over the Internet (you’ve all heard of the Internet, right?). A lab in Kyoto received the data and routed it into a goofy little five-foot-tall robot, which was then impelled to walk around the lab like a monkey on a treadmill.

Said a press release of the event, "For the first time in the world, we were able to make [a] humanoid robot in Japan walk in real-time in a similar manner as [a] monkey." This is a bold statement, certainly. Perhaps a little too bold, considering that a joint Edo/Harvard University experiment in August of 1853, shortly after the sakoku era, produced much the same outcome, although one might argue that because of the lag period (this was back in the dial-up era) the results were somewhat less than real-time.

Regardless of the originality of project, there are some interesting implications here. Foremost, of course, are the applications that this kind of research could have for prosthetic limb technology. It is the hope of the researchers that results like these could help create artificial limbs that respond to neural activity in the wearer, in particular for paralyzed patients. Also, while I’ve already made my distrust of robots clear on this blog, I’m in favor of robotic monkeys. The way I see it, just as real monkeys make life a little more stressful for real people, robot monkeys can’t be making things any easier for humanoid robots (the most dangerous kind of robots). Consider that.

Jan
11
2007

Monkey business: Could pet monkeys be a new cure of anxiety? A Missouri woman claims that she's successfully been off of her anxiety treatment medications since having a pet monkey be her constant companion. (Photo by Hector)
Monkey business: Could pet monkeys be a new cure of anxiety? A Missouri woman claims that she's successfully been off of her anxiety treatment medications since having a pet monkey be her constant companion. (Photo by Hector)
More fun than a barrel of monkeys may be a new prescription, not just an old saying.

A Missouri woman is crediting monkey medication, the presence of a monkey around her all the time, with helping her cope with mental illness issues.

Like me, you may have seen her featured on Good Morning America today. In the report, Debby Rose claims that her pet monkey, Richard, gives her medicinal benefits in treating her anxiety disorder.

“He’s an emotional support. He calms me down. He lowers my blood pressure from his soothing eye contact. He helps with that,” she said on the report. One of the big problems that can come from anxiety disorders are panic attacks. Since having Richard as her constant companion, Debby has had no panic attacks. She no longer needs to take the medications that doctors normally prescribe for people dealing with anxiety issues.

While she and Richard are quite happy with the arrangement, not everyone is so excited. Some people around her community don’t appreciate seeing a monkey at the grocery store or restaurant that Debby might be visiting. And some authorities question if a monkey is an acceptable helper animal to be going around to public places.

Some people filed complaints with the county health department and it is now taking action to bar the Richard from being in stores or restaurants.

"This type of old world monkey has been known to be aggressive. It has a high prevalence of herpes B infection, which is highly fatal in humans when they are exposed to that," said a health department official.

But Debby’s doctor is very supportive of her unusual form of anxiety treatment.

"I have a lot of patients that suffer from anxiety. Many patients are on lots of medication for this problem," said Dr. Larry Halverson. "Debbie has a monkey that she carries with her and takes no medications and remains very functional. So I think it's a great thing."

The situation does raise some interesting questions. What types of animals are acceptable therapy animals? What settings should they be kept out of? Who ultimately should be responsible for making these decisions?

What do you think should be done about Debby and Richard? Share your thoughts by submitting a comment here.