Watch: World’s First Brain Interface Controlled Drone Race

Watch: World’s First Brain Interface Controlled Drone Race

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In a world-first, the University of Florida held a drone race like no other: The competitors all used brain-controlled interfaces (BCI) to manipulate their flying machines. Sixteen pilots used their brainpower to move their drone through a 9m sprint over the finish line in the University’s basketball court.

“With events like this, we’re popularizing the use of BCI instead of it being stuck in the research lab,” said PhD candidate in human-centred computing Chris Crawford. “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.”

Brainwaves are old news. For more than a century now scientists have been able to detect them, but the explosion in application came recently. We already have technology to help paralysed people use brainwaves to move prosthetic limbs, but now the technology is becoming more accessible.

An electroencephalogram headsets can go for as little as $500 dollars, like the ones used in this competition. The EEG headset is calibrated to identify electrical activity and associate it with particular thought in each individual wearer’s brain. When a wearer thinks of an action, like moving the object left, the headsets identifies the neuron firing pattern in his brain and sends the appropriate command to the system.

Professor Juan Gilbert predicts that these BCI devices could one day become ubiquitous. You might in the future use them for mundane tasks like unlocking your mobile phone or maneuvering industrial machinery on a construction site.

“One day you could wear a brain-controlled interface device like you wear a watch, to interact with things around you,” says Gilbert.

For now, you can watch the video below to see how brain-controlled drone racing looks today: