World’s first mind-controlled drone race organized in Florida

One of a kind mind controlled drone race was organized in Florida last week. The world’s first such race involved participants who used their thoughts to drive and direct flying robots. The competition was carried out on April 22 in University of Florida.

In the race known as the world’s first brain-controlled drone, flying robots were remotely controlled by operator’s thoughts and it utilized brain-computer interface (BCI) technology to connect brain to a drone.

Sixteen participants took part in the competition. They used brainwaves to drive drones through a 10-yard platform. In the race, the drone took off as the announcer made the announcement and all raced towards the finish line.

The technology working included- pilots needed to wear black headsets that are BCI devices. The device measures electrical signals from the brain and directs the drones. Professor Juan Gilbert from University of Florida said that they learn to navigate the drone based on brain patterns for specific things you think about.

Though the BCI technology has been present for years, it is the first time when computer-brain interface technology has been used to control unmanned aerial vehicles in a competition. Chris Crawford, a student in human-centered computing, said that such events are helping to make the use of BCI popular rather than keeping the technology stuck in the research lab.

“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”, said Crawford.

University of Florida said that it has plans to organize such kind of events in the coming time as well. It plans to invite other universities to push the interest even further.

A report published in TechCrunch revealed, “Similarly, brain-computer interface (BCI) technology isn’t totally new. And while the technology is still young, advances are being made in labs across the country, and some paralyzed patients have already been able to use the technology to control prosthetic limbs.”

Last week, University of Florida did this for the first time by using BCI software to control a group of DJI Phantom drones. And while the drones didn’t exactly zoom by, 16 pilots used their brainwaves to fly drones down a 10-yard indoor course.

“The BCI technology has been around for years and thoughts or brainwaves have already been utilized for helping paralyzed people to move their hands or feet. But this is the first time when computer-brain interface technology has been used for controlling unmanned aerial vehicles in a competition,” according to a news report published by I4U.

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

According to a report in Tech Times by Rina Marie, “Brain Computer Interface (BCI) is a technology that enables humans to manipulate machines using their thoughts. Such technology used to be aligned in the medical field, with some paralyzed people already helped by mind-controlled limb prosthetics.”

Chris Crawford, a PhD student from the university says, however, that to broaden the use of BCI to the public, experts have to fully accept these consumer brand devices and push them as far as possible. Indeed, the technology has become so increasingly popular and now, widely available. In fact, headsets from startups NeuroSky and Emotiv used for BCI can now be bought online for a several hundred dollars.

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