Researchers Unveil Thought-Controlled Helicopter

By: | July 9th, 2013

Researchers behind the Journal of Neural Engineering have unveiled their work with a “thought controlled” helicopter. The breakthrough, which harnesses thought patterns that man the small helicopter, was recently put to the test on a small obstacle course.

It may sound like something out of a film but the researchers have shown that electronics can be programmed to recognize brainwaves for controlling hardware.

A brain-computer interface monitors, extracts and decodes brainwaves that can be sent to the helicopter. These are simple commands like up and down or left and right. The person controlling the robot wears a non-invasive helmet called an EEG (Electroencephalography) cap that picks up on the person’s commands, which then generates electric currents and sends the signal to a computer. From there, the computer will decode this signal into a command for the helicopter to follow, sent through Wi-Fi.

For example, if the person thinks of clenching their fist, these brainwaves are processed by the computer to point and move the helicopter in a certain direction.

Led by Professor Bin He at University of Minnesota, the breakthrough is considerable in the use of thought in controlling electronic. “To my knowledge, this is the first time human beings are able to control the flight of a flying robot in a three dimensional sky simply using thought,” he explained in an interview with the BBC.

Broadly speaking, the breakthrough could ultimately be used by people with disabilities who have reduced mobility or even paralysis or other forms of neurodegenerative diseases. Read the full study

Jonathan Keane

Irish journalist writing on business, tech and engineering.

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