If you thought pizza delivering drone helicopters were cool or maybe the ones controlled by algorithms that throw and balance poles, then you will love what some folks at the University of Minnesota are working on. Professor Bin He at the school’s Institute for Engineering and Medicine has developed a
remote brain-controlled helicopter.
It is not the “mind-reading” of fiction. The approach, and others like it, require that an electronic system be “trained” to recognise patterns in an electroencephalograph – a map of electrical activity.
Those thoughts, such as that of making a fist with the left hand, are then correlated with motions of the helicopter – in this case to the left.
The electroencephalograph remains a chaotic and largely indecipherable mess of electrical signals, but those related to motion – or the mere thought of it – have proven to be comparatively strong and repeatable.
While for now the technology is being used by Professor He to control helicopters, according to the BBC, he envisions it being expanded to far more beneficial and productive uses for all parts of mankind.
“The ultimate application really is to benefit disabled patients who cannot move or patients that suffer with movement disorders,” Prof He said.
“We want to to control a wheelchair, and turn on the TV, and most importantly – this is my personal dream – to develop a technology to use the subject’s intention to control an artificial limb in that way, and make it as natural as possible,” he told BBC News.
Even control of a household robot could become possible, and Prof He thinks that applications should not be limited to those with movement limitations.
“The brain-computer interface technology may ultimately not only help disabled patients but may also help the healthy population… not to restore loss of function but to enhance function beyond what we can accomplish.”