Scientists use thoughts to pilot remote-controlled helicopter

Scientists use thoughts to pilot remote-controlled helicopter

Scientists have successfully flown a remote-controlled helicopter through an obstacle course using only the 'power' of thoughts.

The research, by the University of Minnesota's Institute for Engineering in Medicine, uses a non-invasive 'cap' to capture brain electrical activity.

Five participants were selected to wear a simple 'cap' that held 64 electrodes, using it to 'teach' the computer the brain patterns corresponding to thoughts of movement - clenching of the left and right fist for turning left and right, clenching both fists to go up, and doing nothing to go down.

Then the computer was set up to run the helicopter over wi-fi, with only the participant's thoughts at the controls.

The approach requires 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, BBC News reported.

The copter was made to reliably fly through an obstacle course in the university's gymnasium - participants' success rates were as high as 90 per cent in obstacle avoidance.

Bin He, director of the University of Minnesota's Institute for Engineering in Medicine and senior author on the new research believes the "non-invasive" approach to gathering the power of thoughts has wider long-term appeal.

The team has been working toward the helicopter experiments for some time, writing in Plos One in 2011 of similar trials using a virtual helicopter.

"The ultimate application really is to benefit disabled patients who cannot move or patients that suffer with movement disorders," 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 said.

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