Saturday, June 8, 2013

Researchers control flying robot with only the mind

Researchers in the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering have developed a new noninvasive system that allows people to control a flying robot using only their mind. The study goes far beyond fun and games and has the potential to help people who are paralyzed or have neurodegenerative diseases.

The study was published today in IOP Publishing’s Journal of Neural Engineering. Five subjects (three female and two male) who took part in the study were each able to successfully control the four-blade flying robot, also known as a quadcopter, quickly and accurately for a sustained amount of time.
 
"Our study shows that for the first time, humans are able to control the flight of flying robots using just their thoughts sensed from a noninvasive skull cap," said Bin He, lead author of the study and biomedical engineering professor in the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering. "It works as good as invasive techniques used in the past."

He said this research is intended to help people who are paralyzed or have neurodegenerative diseases regain mobility and independence.
 
"We envision that they’ll use this technology to control wheelchairs, artificial limbs or other devices," He said.
 
The noninvasive technique, called electroencephalography (EEG), is a unique brain-computer interface that records electrical activity of the subjects’ brain through a specialized, high-tech EEG cap fitted with 64 electrodes.
 
"It’s completely noninvasive. Nobody has to have a chip implanted in their brain to pick up the neuronal activity," said Karl LaFleur, a senior biomedical engineering student during the study and one of the paper’s authors.
 
The researchers said the brain-computer interface system works due to the geography of the motor cortex—the area of the cerebrum that governs movement. When we move, or think about a movement, neurons in the motor cortex produce tiny electric currents.
 
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