Thought-controlled quadcopter takes to the skies

September 5, 2012

Researchers at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, have developed a quadcopter that they claim can be controlled by thought alone. The idea is to give people with impaired motor abilities a new avenue for interaction, says New Scientist.

Their system relies on the commercially available Emotiv EEG headset to interpret brain activity as commands for the quadcopter. Commands are relayed first by Bluetooth to a laptop, then by wireless to the hovering aircraft.

A user can move the flyer forward by thinking “right,” fly up by thinking “push,” and turn clockwise by thinking “left.” Thinking “left hard” tells the quadcopter to take off from the ground. Clenched teeth and blinking both produce a claimed “brain signal” that the EEG can read, commanding the flyer to descend or to take a picture using the on-board camera, respectively.

By default, that camera sends a stream of video back to the laptop, and the user can capture a still of any scene they choose by blinking four times. Seeing and taking pictures from new vantage points are two applications that the researchers think will be useful for disabled users.

“Maybe one day in the future, disabled people can use brain [control] to drive a plane in which they are seated, and go anywhere they want to go,” the researchers imagine.

“Clenched teeth and blinking” also produce electromyographic (muscle) and¬†ocular artifacts much stronger than EEG signals; it’s not clear whether those are doing the driving. — Ed..