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Using the force

Moving objects with your mind is closer to reality than you think. Engineers at the University of Minnesota have designed a helicopter that moves based on your brainwaves. Subjects were hooked up to an EEG (electroencephalograph) using electrodes to pick up brainwaves from a specific area called the sensory-motor system. Neurons in this system  are activated by motor imagination, where you imagine yourself doing a specific movement.

To move the helicopter, subjects were trained to imagine a series of movements. For example, to move the helicopter up, subjects imagined moving their tongue or feet up. To move the helicopter to the right or left, they imagined moving their hands right or left. To move the helicopter forward, they imagined raising their arms. Once mastered, the subjects moved the helicopter with their minds, while watching a live feed from an on-board camera. Subjects were able to successfully move through eleven consecutive rings on an obstacle course without crashing.

The engineers hope this type of research can be applied to those with prosthetic limbs where currently invasive surgery is required to implant electrodes to make the prosthesis move.

If you’re interested in moving objects with the power of your mind, on your next visit to TELUS World of Science check out our exhibit “Relax”, located near Science Theatre on the second floor and "Mind Flex" located in our BodyWorks Gallery.  

For more information, check out the original articles: 

Continuous Three-Dimensional Control of a Virtual Helicopter Using a Motor Imagery Based Brain-Computer Interface. 
Alexander J. Doud, John P. Lucas, Marc T. Pisansky, and Bin He

Quadcopter control in three-dimensional space using a noninvasive motor imagery-based brain–computer interface. 
Karl LaFleur, Kaitlin Cassady, Alexander Doud, Kaleb Shades, Eitan Rogin and Bin He

Mind Over Mechanics by University of Minnesota on YouTube