Researchers create quadrocopter powered by human thought

first_imgThe idea of remote control is getting a major overhaul at the University of Minnesota. Professor Ben He and his crack team of graduate students have developed a system that allows a person to control the movement of a quadrocopter using only their brain. As a bonus, this doesn’t require giant electrodes to actually go into the brain — it’s as easy as putting on a hat.The team used an electroencephalography (EEG) cap to record the subjects’ brainwave activity. The EEG cap is fitted snugly on the head so the 64 electrodes are in contact with the scalp. The increase in electrical activity when different areas of the brain rev up can be charted as distinct events. This is the key to controlling the quadrocopter.Researchers set up a simple system of imagined hand movement to control the craft. Note that the pilots don’t have to actually move their hands at all — they simply think about doing so. Moving or clenching the right and left hand controls turning. Imagining moving both hands up and down together adjusts the altitude. The current setup has the plane moving forward at a set speed, but there is no reason brain-based throttle control couldn’t be implemented later.The EEG interprets the brain’s electrical activity to decide which action the subject was thinking about. Once it’s decoded, the instruction is beamed to the quadrocopter over WiFi. This brain-computer interface (BCI) is precise enough that testers could, after a bit of practice, fly the miniature aircraft around a test course and through foam rings.Professor He believes this technology could eventually give humans the ability to control robots and other devices with their minds. For someone that is disabled or has limited mobility due to injury, this could be fundamentally life altering. BCIs are being researched at facilities around the world, but this is one of the more impressive video demonstrations. It might almost be time for this technology to have its day.last_img read more