MAY 18, 2016 4:32 AM PDT

This is Your Brain on Drones

Can you move things with your thoughts? As it turns out, some people can, but they are not carnival performers or nightclub acts. In one case they were students at the University of Florida in Gainesville. In a world’s first, a race was conducted with drones controlled entirely by the thoughts (and associated brain wave patterns) of their pilots. It was possible through the technology of BCI, or Brain Computer Interface. It’s a process that takes the specific neuronal activity going on in the brain, collected via an EEG headset worn by the person whose brain activity is being monitored, and assigns it to a particular function. It has applications in medical science for those with prosthetic limbs or a person with a neurodegenerative disease that needs to control a wheelchair or other assistive device.
The world's first brain controlled drone race

Professor Juan Gilbert, Chair of the Computer Information and Science and Engineering department, organized the drone race at the University of Florida. He and his students devised a step-by-step process for how a race could be conducted entirely with drones controlled by brain activity. Headsets were worn by students who were then asked to think about various functions like raising the drone off the ground, propelling it forward and landing it.
 
These thoughts then had to be translated. Each wearer’s thoughts are unique to them, even if they are all about the same function, such as forward movement. The EEG headsets were customized in a sense to the specific electrical activity in the brain of the student wearing it. Once there is a recording of the specific neurons that fire while a person is imagining the drone moving forward, the computer programmers begin their part of the task.
 
The neuronal activity is converted into code that specially built receivers placed on the drones can decode. While one student’s neuronal pattern may differ from another’s when imagining forward movement, the programming makes it universally understood by the drones so that they can follow the signals.  
 
Drone races are becoming very popular, but traditional races with drones controlled by hand held remotes are much faster and, some would say, more exciting. The drones in the race held at the University of Florida did not move at a fast pace, but there was excitement in the crowd gathered anyway. Students were literally sitting at a computer interface and making the drones move forward. A few of them had some bumps along the 10 yard course, but getting to the finish line on brain power made up for any lack of speed or thrills.
 
Professor Gilbert told Reuters, "The implications are far beyond the race. It's fascinating. It's the first of its kind. It's the future." He is encouraging other universities to develop drone racing teams of their own, using the EEG headsets and in doing so can move the technology of BCI forward into even more possible applications. Check out the video below to see some of the race.
 
Source: University of FloridaReutersAP The Big Story, Tech Crunch
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
NOV 25, 2019
Neuroscience
NOV 25, 2019
Mapping the Maturation of Nerve Cells
Above: A video from Harvard Medical School describing how neural networks are studied, a summary of how they work, and why it is important.  Scientist...
DEC 01, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
DEC 01, 2019
Learning More About Why We Freeze Up When We're Startled
Researchers have used a common molecular model, the fruit fly, to learn more about why we suddenly freeze when we're startled....
DEC 04, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
DEC 04, 2019
Neurotoxin Cadmium and Gene Combo Accelerate Cognitive Decline
Findings from a new animal study suggest that exposure to cadmium, a neurotoxin, leads to accelerated cognitive impairment. Males with a genetic risk facto...
DEC 22, 2019
Neuroscience
DEC 22, 2019
Midlife Obesity, not Diet, Increases Dementia Risk
A new study on over 1 milion women in the UK has found that women who are obese during their 50’s are at a higher risk than women with healthier phys...
JAN 16, 2020
Neuroscience
JAN 16, 2020
Early-life Stress and Pollution Lead to Cognitive Impairment
Children exposed to high levels of stress at home from early on and high levels of air pollution while still in the womb are more likely to develop attenti...
FEB 03, 2020
Neuroscience
FEB 03, 2020
Genetic Characterization of Bipolar Disorders, Major Depressive Disorder
Mood disorders, like Bipolar, Major Depressive Disorder, and Schizophrenia, among others, are difficult to define clinically.  Unlike disorders that a...
Loading Comments...