Chinese company EEGSmart have developed brain-machine interface (BMI) technology which they intend to market to the masses through their UDrone mini-quad and UMind Lite headset.
A year ago we brought you a story about drones you can control with your mind on display at a technology expo in Dubai. Since that time, the tech has continued to advance and EEGSmart’s launch may represent the next step forward in the ‘mind-control’ wearables market.
The UDrone is a small, lightweight craft with 2-inch props and comes equipped with an 8 megapixel, 1080p capable camera. It comes with face-tracking and gesture recognition and can stay airborne for around 7 minutes, according to the testing conducted by Loz Blain from New Atlas.
The headset has multiple inbuilt sensors which measure your brain’s electrical activity, as well as eye movements and response to your nerve’s stimulation of muscles. New Atlas writes that the device also:
“Has gyros and accelerometers, and patented gear built in to amplify signal and squash noise from the finicky brain and nerve sensors.”
Loz Blain described the UMind Lite headset as “not perfect” but also noted that it offered us a “glimpse of a mind-controlled future.”
You can watch the video of his test below:
How it works and its limitations
The video above shows the tester tilting his head as the drone moves from side to side and up and down. As with similar mind-controlled drones, in order to get it to take off, you have to really concentrate and empty your mind. According to Loz, this is the most difficult part of the flight. Once in the air, you can move your head left or right and the drone will follow your movements. If you blink twice it will take a photo and a clench of your jaw will cause the drone to come into land.
The tester writes that not all of the controls are intuitive and that tilting your head forward causes the drone to move forward and vice-versa.
While there are some promising results being produced by the early generations of EEG detecting headsets, it is also clear this technology has a long way to go. Having to intensely concentrate in order to get your drone to fly may sound like fun for some but I imagine the novelty will wear off rather quickly. As with early VR headsets, we should expect a few generations of the technology to go by for the kinks to be ironed out.
For now, it seems unlikely many people will abandon their hand controller for an EEG capable device because although they seem like fun, they are still a little on the gimmicky side.
By itself, the drone costs $150 and with the headset controller included, its $282. Udrone is looking to raise the rather humble sum of $4,968 within 45 days. They plan to have the orders ready to be delivered by April 2019.
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