Scientists develop helmet to control toy cars via brain waves

Scientists develop helmet to control toy cars via brain waves
Traditional EEGs have been used in medicine for years. Photo: DPA
German scientists in Braunschweig have developed a helmet that can control model cars using only brain waves, opening exciting new possibilities for people with physical disabilities.

The so-called Brain-Computer Interface is based on the classic electroencephalogram (EEG) already widely used in medicine to measure electrical brain activity. Minute changes in voltage on the surface of the head are converted in signals by a computer that can then control the movement of an object such as a model car.

“The dream of a simple interface between brain and machine has come true,” said Professor Meinhard Schilling, who believes the helmet will be used both for medical diagnostic work and for controlling wheelchairs and prostheses.

A less serious application could also be as a high-tech controller for video games.

The Brain-Computer Interface works without direct electrical contact with a person’s head. The brain signals are measured by electrodes in the helmet without an elastic cap or contact gel required by normal EEGs making it usable in seconds.

“In order for the whole thing to work, the user has to concentrate on a predetermined pattern,” explained Schilling. The radio-controlled car will then change direction according to signals in the brain’s sight centre.

To steer the car, the person wearing the helmet views a screen with two chessboard patterns that blink at different frequencies. Concentrating on the left or right chessboard will move the car in that direction. If the person doesn’t focus on either pattern it will travel straight ahead.