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Mind-controlled quadcopter takes to the air

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have designed an interface that lets humans control a flying robot using their thoughts alone.

Professor Bin He is overseeing the team that's gotten a quadcopter off the ground using brainwaves. Video screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNET

How close are we getting to actual brain control? It's starting to seem like it's not far off. On the sillier end of the spectrum, we've seen robotic ears and tails that respond to brainwaves, and more recently we've seen a brain interface for designing printable objects, a mind-controlled exoskeleton, and even mind-to-mind communication.

A team of researchers at the University of Minnesota has just added another exciting new technology to the list: a quadcopter that can perform feats of aerial agility, controlled entirely by the pilot's thoughts.

Using electroencephalography, or EEG, a non-invasive cap fitted with 64 electrodes reads the electrical impulses of the brain to control the copter. Thinking of making a fist with the left hand, for example, fires off certain neurons in the brain's motor cortex; the cap interprets this pattern and sends a command to the copter to turn left. Other commands include thinking of making a fist with the right hand to turn right, and making two fists to tell the copter to rise.

In this way, five subjects -- two male and three female -- were able to successfully pilot the quadcopter quickly and accurately for a sustained period of time through an obstacle course in the university's gymnasium.

Bin He, a professor of biomedical engineering and lead author of the study "Quadcopter control in three-dimensional space using a non-invasive motor imagery-based brain-computer interface," hopes the research will be developed to create solutions for the disabled. "Our next goal is to control robotic arms using non-invasive brain wave signals, with the eventual goal of developing brain-computer interfaces that aid patients with disabilities or neurodegenerative disorders," he said.

This will not be the first mind-controlled robotic arm; however, the robotic arm announced in December of last year requires a brain implant. His solution is much less invasive, requiring no surgery to implant the interface.

(Source: Crave Australia)