Not just fantasy: Control a flying robot with your brain

The Nintendo Wii opened up the world of gaming without a traditional controller, and Microsoft went one step further with the Kinect. Although not mainstream, another company took yet another step by letting users play games with nothing but their eyes. So what's up next? Controling the world with your brain!

Sound far-fetched? Well, according to the University of Minnesota, the technology is already here. Researchers at the university have created a device that lays on top of your head and reads your brain waves. They've connected those readings to a flying "quadcoptor," and five people have successfully used their brains to fly the machine through an obstacle course in a gymnasium. It's all done with your thoughts; the video explains that if the user thinks about making a fist with their right hand, the robot flies to the right. If the user thinks about making a first with both hands, the robot starts to ascend. Bin Le, the lead researchers on the project, says:

Our study shows that for the first time, humans are able to control the flight of flying robots using just their thoughts sensed from a noninvasive skull cap. It works as good as invasive techniques used in the past.

How does it work? The electroencephalography (EEG) cap is placed on the head, and when the wearer thinks about certain things, the brain creates an electric current that the cap reads and sends to the computer to process. Thinking about different movements forces the neurons in the motor cortex to create different electric currents, and these can all be decyphered with the cap and computer. The researchers hope that the new technology will help people with disabilities interact with the world.

Our next step is to use the mapping and engineering technology we’ve developed to help disabled patients interact with the world. It may even help patients with conditions like autism or Alzheimer’s disease or help stroke victims recover. We’re now studying some stroke patients to see if it’ll help rewire brain circuits to bypass damaged areas.

All in all a very promising technological development!

Source: University of Minnesota

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