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Chinese boffins build brain-powered camera 'copter

Noggin-operated flying machine could help disabled

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The evolution of brain-computer interface (BCI) technology appears to have taken another leap forward thanks to a group of Chinese boffins who’ve invented a toy quadracopter that can be controlled by human thought alone.

Researchers at Zhejiang University in the eastern city of Hangzhou designed the copter with an on-board camera so that it can be used by disabled folk effectively as a second set of highly mobile eyes, according to New Scientist.

FlyingBuddy 2 uses a commercially-available Emotiv electroencephalography (EEG) headset to turn brain signals into directional commands. These commands are sent to a laptop by Bluetooth and then from the lappie to the copter by Wi-Fi.

For example, thinking “left hard” will make the drone take off and land; thinking “left lightly” will get it to rotate clockwise; and thinking “right” will make it fly forwards.

Blinking, meanwhile, will activate the on-board camera to take pictures while clenching one’s teeth will make the copter descend.

The camera streams back video from the machine to the laptop and blinking four times will capture a still, the report said.

A YouTube clip shows two operators of the flying machines – one using hand-controls and the other their brain – facing off in a “fight” to push the other’s copter out of a small ring, and illustrates the impressively fast response time which the EEG system is capable of.

Expect another burst of publicity later this week when the system is shown off at the Ubiquitous Computing Conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. ®

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