Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.
One can imagine the immortal words of silver screen sages echoing in the minds of the participants of the world’s first mind-controlled drone race in the University of Florida.
The racers are wearing EEG (electroencephalogram) headsets, these devices collect information about activity in different areas of the brain. Thinking about a particular thing activates these areas in varying combinations and patterns and it is this pattern that a computer translates into physical motion.
The technology isn’t new, the EEG is a medical device used for brain activity to determine if abnormalities exist in patients. Today several research organisations already have working prototypes of brain-computer interfaces that allow a human to mentally control prosthetic limbs, robots and other devises such as wheelchairs.
In Florida, sixteen racers participated in the race, and by using a visual aid, a computer generated image of a box floating in virtual space, the racers visualize the movements and the drones respond.
Some have no problem maneuvering the devices while others find it difficult to even get them off the ground, and the reason might be found in reports where children were more adept than adults at a more recreational incarnation of this technology, the Star Wars Force Trainer by Uncle Milton Toys.
This children’s toy contained a rudimentary Bluetooth EEG headset and allow children to manipulate an image which was displayed in a screen, interpreting their thoughts into visual responses.
Anecdotal evidence indicates that children tend to fare better at the game than adults, possibly owing to the fact that children actually find it easier to visualize the inconceivable scenario of mentally moving an object.
As our understanding of neural control technology, and our knowledge of the way our brains function begins to grow, the line that separates us from the technology we use will begin to blur. With brain-computer interfaces, we have begun to cut out the proverbial “middleman” – the flesh and bone of our hands, fingers and bodies – that we use to feed commands into our computers. With commands being fed directly from our thoughts, we become more and more intertwined with the technology we use.