3D Robotics

"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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  • I agree Fab, muscle noise, especially from the eye muscles can be easily used as a control signal, however from my work and the work of many other researchers in the neuro field have found that the computer system which interprets the eye muscle signal needs to be calibrated once a minute to counter the tendency of the signal to lose impedance/connection and begin to drift. (I do have a rather pricey EEG in the lab, currently working on BCI systems, it's just nowhere near as portable as the emotiv set.)

    There are methods of isolating the common signal, called blind source separation (BSS), which uses techniques such as ICA (Independent Component Analysis) to in short "triangulate" a specific signal to a particular region, very useful to identify the important data and to discard the "background brain junk" or not so useful signals, like haptic/touch, heart beat regulation (also controlled via the vagus nerve) and bowel control etc... 

    Funnily enough, you will see almost the same signals just by imagining something as you would if you were really doing it (look up imagined motor movement BCI).

    I also agree with your final point, indeed the project looks quite interesting, I am looking forward to seeing how far they can take it.

  • I think you are right in as much as it's about the giro and accel doing all the work. I also think that muscle noise gets used by these devices to know things like "are your eyebrows raised", "eyes are looking left", smiling etc.

    After that I can't see what "clean signals" you hope to get without some very expensive equipment. Even expensive equipment won't be able to determine anything with speed or accuracy.

    Certainly good skin contact gives better readings but the readings will still be random.

    My tongue in cheek reply above isn't far from the truth. It's almost impossible to think about one thing clearly because our brains have so much going on at so many different levels. If I try to think about one thing I also end up thinking about not thinking about the things that I don't want to think about. So when I am "thinking about one thing" it is really difficult not to think about other things.

    How does a computer reliably interpret that even after calibration to your brainwaves. In the main, the things that I don't want to think about, thinking about thinking about something and actually think about that something will probably all affect the same parts of the brain. (If it hasn't blown up after reading this).

    Having said all of that, this world is full of many different people. I guess there will be a few people that can think with absolute clarity yet still manage to breath :)

    One final point. Sometimes I get it wrong! Other than the brain activity discussion there is a lot that I like about this project

  • @ Fab, it sure as heck does work without an invasive ECoG array, try telling that to the neuroscience department at pretty much any hospital around the world! It's the muscle noise and electrode connectivity/impedance non-stationarity which is the real issue, which can be eliminated with the right type of filtering algorithm.

    Most of the NeuroSky "games" rely on the internal gyro and accelerometer fused with a kind of fuzzy signal from the cognition and short term memory centres (FP1/2 or frontal cortex). Another note is that most if not all people who use these devices don't realise that skin preparation is key to signal quality, the scalp must be cleaned with an abrasive gel otherwise the signal is useless (from a research/clinical standpoint at least).

  • 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 :)

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

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

  • 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.


  • Developer

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

  • Developer

    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..

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

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