"Mind-controlled" spherocopter on Kickstarter

Another cool project on Kickstarter. This one is $149 with EEG headband.

Puzzlebox Orbit features a unique spherical design that protects helicopter blades from unintended impact with objects such as walls and ceilings, while lending a pleasantly technical aesthetic. Despite remote control helicopters in general having earned a reputation for being fragile we have been extremely pleased with the build quality and resilience of our samples. They have survived several falls and collisions over the course of development and testing without noticeable damage.

We offer two models, the first designed to be used with mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. A NeuroSky MindWave Mobile EEG headset is required to communicate with the device over Bluetooth. Our software then extracts and visualizes your brainwaves in realtime. Command signals are issued to the Puzzlebox Orbit via an infrared adapter connected to the audio port (for compatibility with Apple's iOS).

Puzzlebox Pyramid (Prototype)Puzzlebox Pyramid (Prototype)

Puzzlebox Pyramid is supplied with our second, self-contained model. The Pyramid acts as a home base and remote control unit for the Orbit. It features a custom-designed, programmable micro-controller compatible with popular boards from Arduino. Twelve multi-colored LED lights are arranged according to clock positions on the face of the Pyramid and are used to indicate current levels of concentration, mental relaxation, and EEG signal quality. The lights can be customized to display different colors and patterns with distinct meanings according to preference. Lining the rim are several infrared LEDs that operate the helicopter and with software programming are capable of controlling additional IR toys and devices including televisions.

With either edition the user can select a "flight path" for the helicopter (such as "hover in place" or "fly across the room") to be carried out whenever a targetted personal mental state is detected and maintained. Third-party developers are able and encouraged to contribute new features and modes of flight control.

Puzzlebox Orbit relies on EEG hardware from NeuroSky to produce measurements of attention and meditation. Leveraging their hardware plus our proven track record with BCI has yielded a much faster and smoother time to market, empowering us to focus on building the best possible product and software. We offer rewards to backers both with and without pre-packaged headsets included.

Puzzlebox Orbits and Pyramids

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Comment by MarcS on November 10, 2012 at 4:01am

The idea reminds me of a toy sold some years ago. And after a quick search it turns out to use the same EEG chipset: Mindflex

Especially here in germany there was much criticism on it questioning if its really a working brain computer interface (BCI) system or fake.

Out of personal experience (on the academic side of BCI), I can say that controlling something by thoughts requires long training and only gives you limited control. Whats easier to detect are lid and jaw mowements, but thats not actually brain control then :-)

Comment by Crasher on November 10, 2012 at 5:56am
Im pretty sure that the Japanese team that had that other spherical aircraft hold a patent on it?

I may be wrong.
Comment by Kevin Brown on November 10, 2012 at 6:47am

I have trouble flying using my hands to control the craft......

Comment by Ellison Chan on November 10, 2012 at 1:55pm

There's a reason why these Kickstarter projects can't get conventional funding. ;-)

Comment by John Arne Birkeland on November 10, 2012 at 2:20pm

Mount a tiny camera on you head, pointing at your face and do face and eye movement tracking. So basically where you look, is where it flies, and distance/rotation is controlled by head movements..

You would of course also need a small hand control with a toggle, so that you can look away when needed and some other practical details. But still..

Comment by Kabir on November 10, 2012 at 10:43pm

Cool, that looks like an Mega ADK in the pink pyramid.

Comment by Steve Castellotti on November 11, 2012 at 4:51pm

Hello all, I'm one of the team at Puzzlebox behind this project. Thanks for posting, we're glad to see it here!

To respond to a few comments above, yes we are using EEG headsets from NeuroSky, which are the same chip providers as used for the Mindflex. And while yes, electrical signals from muscle movements (EMG) are an order of magnitude (or more) larger than EEG, that noise is also quite easy to filter out. We are mostly concerned with Beta, Alpha, and Theta waves measured at FP1 on the 10-20 scale. Whenever high levels of concentration (or "mental relaxation") are detected, the control unit starts issuing commands over IR according to a pre-selected flight path. You do not steer directly. We are actually quite forward about this in the "Risks and Challenges" section of our Kickstarter.

Yes, we are using an Arduino Mega ADK for our prototyping and the final custom board will likely be compatible. I say likely because all we really need is USB Host support to connect to the USB RF dongle for the EEG headset and of course we will be seeking to keep costs as low as possible. In any case it will be possible to reprogram our hardware using the standard Arduino IDE.

I should try to make it clear the purpose of the project is not simply to build and sell brain-controlled helicopters, but to do so using completely Open Source tools and materials. We will publish all available hardware schematics, the 3D model for Puzzlebox Pyramid controller, wiring schematics, and so on. With custom programming it should be possible to use our hardware and software to control most any IR-based vehicle or device. So for example, if someone was interested in eye-tracking-based control our kit should make for an ideal starting point and we would gladly support and encourage such modifications.

And finally, we published a complete guide to hacking a Blade mCX2 for EEG brain control nearly two years ago on Instructables.com. That model used a Spektrum DSM2 instead of IR but many of the principles are the same.


Comment by Jack Crossfire on November 11, 2012 at 8:30pm

Got to make sure the EEG headband has some gyros, just in case the EEG part doesn't work.

Comment by AVS on November 12, 2012 at 12:38pm

From what I have read, the EEG stuff doesn't work unless it involves surgical implant. Good to see the protected props.

Comment by AVS on November 12, 2012 at 5:46pm

Okay you can also get a very expensive hat that might provide some small feedback for a few very crude and extremely hard to consistently replicate brain emissions. The problem is that when you think you are thinking about something you are really thinking about how you are thinking about thinking about something :)


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