Washington: Scientists have designed a new device that can allow users to control a virtual helicopter using only their minds.The researchers, led by Dr. Bin He of University of Minnesota, created an EEG-based, noninvasive brain-computer interface that allowed users to accurately and continually navigate a virtual helicopter simply by thinking about where they wanted to craft to go.
The task required users to direct their helicopter through randomly positioned rings in three-dimensional space (videos of the task available); these targets were reached successfully 85 percent of the time.
Much of the previous work in this field required invasive treatments that allowed for measurement of intracranial activity, but this new approach employs EEG in the form of a cap on the user’s head. This noninvasive technique records a particular brain wave called the sensorimotor rhythm, which in turn can be characterized and calibrated to control the movements of the on-screen helicopter.
According to lead researcher Dr. He, “this work demonstrates for the first time that one can accomplish real-time, continuous 3-dimensional control of a flying object in a virtual world from noninvasive EEG-based brain-computer interface.
“Such ability used to be limited in cases where invasive recordings are used, thus the work opens avenues to noninvasive bio-navigation, or neuroprosthetics,” he added.
The study was recently published in the online journal PLoS ONE.
First Published: Thursday, October 27, 2011, 13:06