Use your brains to fly a helicopter

When you think that flying a miniature helicopter solely through using your brains is impossible, then think again! I recently found out about this company called Neurosky and how it has now come up with a miniature helicopter that users can control through their brains.

Neursoky is a company that specialises in “bridging the gap between technology and the human body.” Its instruments measure brainwave EEG and heartbeat ECG signals to help entertain, relax or exercise our vital organs. Neurosky essentially creates bio-sensors which help detect brainwaves and body sensations. Together with its partners, Neurosky has developed products that help converting body signals into concrete actions such as flying a miniature helicopter or using a mobile phone.

Whilst I’m still learning more about how the underlying technology works, let me make a start here:

  1. Brain Computer Interface technology – Brain Computer Interface (‘BCI’) technology is what underpins Neurosky’s products. BCI essentially takes electrical brainwaves and processes them into digital signals to make measurements available to power the user-interface of games, computers and investigational medical applications.
  2. Use your brains! – Our brains are made up of lots and lots of brain cells called neurons which use electricity to communicate with each other. These ‘inter-neuron interactions’ produce a large amount of electrical activity in the brain, which can be detected using sensitive medical equipment (such as an EEG). Don’t think for a minute that I’ve suddenly become an expert on the human brain. Instead, all credit goes to “Dr. Hugo” who goes on to write about the different brainwave types such as “beta” (an alert state) or “alpha” (a relaxed state). You can use these different brainwave types to control a device, makiing it do the things you want it to based on your ‘state’.
  3. How Neurosky uses BCI – As I mentioned, the core of Neurosky’s research and technology concentrates on detecting electrical brainwaves and converting these into digital signals to make measurements available to power the user-interface of games, computers and other applications. In simple words, this means that if you’re using one of Neurosky’s products in a relaxed state, this will have an impact on how you use your mobile device (see Fig. 1). Similarly, if you really concentrate on getting your miniature helicopter up into the air, you will (eventually) get it to fly (see Fig 2.).

Main learning point: the research and technology which Neurosky and its partners use is fascinating stuff. Combined with the developments we’ve seen in wearable technology (think Google Glass and Vuzix M100) I reckon this will be an area that we’ll see a lot more of development over the coming years! Can’t wait to drive a remote controlled car using my brains!

Fig. 1 – Demonstrating Neurosky’s technology
Fig. 2 – Demonstrating Puzzlebox Orbit

How cool is Google’s Project Glass?

At present, “Project Glass” is just a work in progress but Google assured its audience at last week’s I/O Conference that this augmented reality device will eventually be offered to the masses (how many of those masses ill actually be able to buy the device is another matter – a pre-order developer unit costs $1,500).

I guess the main thing to know about Project Glass is that it enables people wearing the glasses to search information, voice record messages, watch online videos, read text messages and post photos online without having to worry about fumbling with a handheld device.

With the device only scheduled to go on general sale in 2014, Google’s main aim at this stage is to receive as much developer feedback as possible. For example, a simple but obvious way for Google to get input on its latest project is through a dedicated post on Google+. Whatever you make of augmented reality, it is fair to say that this is a truly innovative device by Google and one that holds a lot of promise:

  1. Changing the way how we communicate – Think hands-free text messages, truly one-to-one tutorials and video conferencing that suddenly has become a whole lot easier.
  2. Access to and organising information – It will be interesting to see how ‘practical’ Google’s Project Glass will turn out to be, but I can imagine that the biggest draw of the device will be instant information access. From looking at some of the demo videos, it looks like the data overlays will not take up one’s entire field of vision but will instead appear in one’s peripheral vision. This will make the information present and instant enough for a user to access and organise.
  3. Posting and sharing will become even easier and quicker – With this new device the way in which we take pictures is likely to change dramatically. With the device stuck to your glasses, the opportunities for one to take pictures will increase significantly. Similarly, I can imagine it will become much easier to then post and share these pictures within one’s social network.

Main learning point: even though “Project Glass” is currently only in its prototype stage, it looks like a very cool and innovative device. The question remains how interactive and easy-to-use the actual consumer version will be. Like with all innovations, it is probably safe to expect something that will be very pricey, buggy and not super easy to use at first. It will be interesting to see if Project Glass or at it least its understanding technology will eventually turn into something that is here to stay.

Related links for further learning:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lz0o-y-2wT0

http://venturebeat.com/2012/06/27/resistance-is-futile-google-glass/

http://thenextweb.com/google/2012/06/27/googles-project-glass-a-promise-for-the-future-but-is-it-a-future-you-want/

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/04/augmented-reality-experts-say-google-glasses-face-serious-hurdles/

http://thenextweb.com/google/2012/07/02/project-glass-i-want-this-but-i-dont-want-the-google-that-comes-with-it/

http://news.cnet.com/8301-17852_3-57410789-71/googles-augmented-reality-glasses-is-it-all-pr/?tag=mncol;8n