The mind controlled helicopter may sound like a highly futuristic device but, in reality, it is only the latest in an expanding line of technology that uses brainwaves and brain patterns to control it. Previous efforts have allowed the control of a prosthetic limb and even video games without the need for any additional equipment.
Every thought we have emits a specific electrical pattern from the brain. While vague thoughts may have a unique pattern, specific movements and ideas lead to very specific patterns that are repeated whenever we perform the same movements. This repetition allows for what is essentially thought reading technology. A device can be trained to recognise a particular pattern of thoughts and perform an action as a result.
With the helicopter, the pilot thinks about clenching his left fist and the helicopter flies to the left.
Such thought and reaction have obvious potential uses in other areas too. Prosthetic limbs can improve an amputee’s life but they are far from being the real thing. With thought controlled patterns, thinking about clenching the left fist could result in actually clenching the left fist. With a prosthetic limb this is a major leap forward and one that could give even more freedom and independence back to those that have lost limbs.
A full exoskeleton has even been tested that enabled a car crash victim with a severed spinal cord to walk again using his thoughts to navigate the robotic body.
At this week’s Computex trade fair there was yet more evidence of mind controlled technology too.
US chip company NeuroSky, the company responsible for showing off the mind controlled helicopter, showcased its new product called MindWave Mobile. It is a brain computer interface that connects headset wearing users to apps installed in a computer. The helicopter is just one possible application of the device.
Video games, cars, the TV and Sky remote, and even the whole home automation system are just some of the potential uses for thought control and the more a person uses them, the more they will associate a particular thought with the desired response. Rather than thinking about closing the left fist a person would eventually think about turning the TV on and it would happen.
I, for one, think this is a step beyond even the Wii’s innovative gesture controls!