The world's first brain-controlled drone race at the University of Florida showed how far brain-computer interface technology has come.
Chris Crawford, lead developer for the university's brain-drone team, told WUFT
public broadcasting the April 16 event was created to generate interest in the public about the technology and inspire future students to come up with innovative ideas.
Technology website Tech Crunch
said drone racing isn't something out of science fiction. The drone pilots wear electroencephalogram headsets, which detect and interpret brain activity, allowing the brain, instead of a keyboard or joystick, to send messages to the drone.
"It is also an entertaining way to gather brain data that can be used to enhance our understanding of the brain," Crawford said."This training process assists the computer with detecting brain patterns that correspond to specific cognitive commands. In our system, we train a neutral state – users are relaxing, calm, not blinking – and a push state – imagine pushing an object forward."
"This (brain) activity is then bound to the forward stick on the drone's controller, so future similar neuron activity will move the drone forward," added Tech Crunch. "Essentially, it's the same thing as when you bind new keyboard commands when playing a video game for the first time, just using brain waves instead of keyboard keys."
Tech Crunch noted that while the technology is still young, advances are being made in labs across the country. Some paralyzed patients have been able to use the technology to control prosthetic limbs.
"But utilizing this BCI technology to connect your brain to a drone? That is definitely new," said Tech Crunch.
Crawford told The Associated Press
that the drone race was the best way to get out of the research lab and show off the technology.
"BCI was a technology that was geared specifically for medical purposes, and in order to expand this to the general public, we actually have to embrace these consumer brand devices and push them to the limit."
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