Over the past year, University of Florida have developed a drone that can be controlled using brain-waves. And last week, they held the world’s first drone race involving a brain-controlled interface called Brain Drone Race.
The competition involved 16 pilots to drive drones through a 10-yard dash over an indoor basketball basketball court at the University of Florida. The pilots are wearing black headset with tentacle-like sensors stretched over their foreheads. They stare at cubes floating on computer screens as their drones take-off.
Here’s how the technology delivers an abstract thought through the digital realm and into the real world: Each electroencephalogram (EEG) headset is calibrated to identify the electrical activity associated with particular thoughts in each wearer’s brain – recording, for example, where neurons fire when the wearer imagines pushing a chair across the floor. Programmers write code to translate these “imaginary motion” signals into commands that computers send to drones.
In this system, instead of the pilot thinking certain thoughts to move the drones, she looks at a screen with flickering signals, triggering brain activity that translates into specific movements. “It can accommodate lots of commands, much more than imaginary motion can.” UT scientist Yufei Huang said.
But, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Kit Walsh said that we should think carefully before handing over our brainwaves for purposes that have yet to be conceived or contained. “EEG readings are similar to fingerprints: once I know what the readings look like from your brain in a certain situation, I’ll be able to recognize you by that pattern again later on.”