Gainesville, Florida – The University of Florida held the world’s first brain-controlled drone race ever by using Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) technology. Sixteen pilots used their brain power to fly DJI Phantom drones down a 10-yard indoor course, as reported by Tech Crunch.
Pilots wear electroencephalogram headsets and neuron activity will be recorded when the user thinks about pushing something forward, like a chair. After this brain activity is bound to the forward stick on the drone’s controller, it results in similar neuron activity moving the drone forward in the future.
“We learn to navigate the drone based on brain patterns for specific things you are thinking about,” said Juan Gilbert, a computer science professor at the University of Florida. He appears in a video released by the university.
The National Drone Racing Championship will be broadcasted on August to an international audience thanks to a multi-year deal between the International Drone Racing Association (IDRA) and ESPN, the world’s largest sports broadcasters.
Chris Crawford, a student from the University of Florida, told the Associated Press that the use of a BCI headset in sports would help bring the tech to a much wider audience. He added that events like the one held at his university serve to spread the use of the technology beyond the research lab.
Crawford said that BCI was specifically developed for medical purposes and pointed out that people should embrace consumer brand gadgets to expand the technology to the general public.
BCI tech in the future
The video shows that brain-controlled drones are not quite ready for the raceway. Unlike most handheld drone races, these drones weren’t exactly blistering around a racetrack at 70 mph. Instead, they moved slowly as the pilots tried to focus on controlling them. Still, the BCI technology promises a lot when it comes to its integration into our daily activities.
Advances are being made in other fields and some paralyzed patients have already experienced the awesomeness of BCI technology by controlling prosthetic limbs, for example. In the future, this tech could allow us to have our robots do anything just by thinking about it.