Why use a remote control when you can rely on your own cerebral cortex? We’ve got smartphones and Siri that respond to our voice; cameras and other gadgets that recognise our face; and even games consoles and TVs that can be controlled by the waving of arms or moving of legs, but isn’t all of this just a tad old-fashioned? In the future electronics will be silently and calmly controlled by thought alone, but that’s surely not possible yet – or is it?
Remarkably, scientists and developers have come up with various devices and applications where the brainwaves – the electrical impulses emitted by the interaction of a hundred billion neurons in our brains – can be measured and used in place of a handheld remote control or mouse. Many of these brain-computer interfaces are life-changing for severely disabled people, and they’re coming to a gadget near you soon. Is this the electronic world’s eureka moment?
The brain-computer interface is what the EPOC headset is all about, and it gets further than most. Using sensors on the scalp to tune into high resolution electrical signals produced by the brain to detect a user’s thoughts, feelings and expressions, EPOC can be used for video games and computer control, but that’s not where it does its best work.
Its accurate reading of brain signals has enabled EPOC to be used by disabled people to operate a mind-controlled electric wheelchair, and also by visual artists for ground-breaking hands-free painting.
It’s these changes that are used to accomplish tasks in around 100 brain training games. It links to a PC, Mac, smartphones and tablets via Bluetooth.
Flying is all about discipline, and none more so than when you’re remotely operating the Puzzlebox Orbit – using just your brain. A success on crowd-funding website Kickstarter, the Puzzlebox Orbit uses a NeuroSky MindWave Mobile headset to detect your state of mind, with both focusing intently on the helicoptor and being in a state of relaxation translated into separate commands. The relaying of all brainwave results to the helicopter – which is small enough to be flown/hovered indoors – is done over Bluetooth.
In place of a dashboard the pilot gets a Puzzlebox Pyramid whose LED lights indicate current levels of concentration, mental relaxation and brainwave signal quality. There’s even software that allows the Pyramid to replace any infra-red remote controls – and that means any TV or hi-fi. The Pyramid can be replaced by an iPhone, though you’ll need an accessory.