Students Develop Brain-Wave-Controlled Flight Simulator

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A team of engineering students at Northeastern University in Boston have developed a system that allows a pilot to operate a flight simulator with brain waves. The pilot exerts control of a simulated airplane by looking at specific points on an array of LEDs mounted on Plexiglas in front of a television screen. "Typically, a pilot has a joystick and a throttle and those allow him or her to do a myriad of things," said Mike Nedoroscik, the team leader. "We were able to identify the absolute essential controls and write them into the software. We've been able to achieve up to eight commands, which allowed us to fly the plane and do a couple of flight maneuvers." The project has drawn interest from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and inspired a team at Honeywell Inc. to pursue similar research, according to the university.

Nedoroscik and a team of five students worked on the project for two semesters, supervised by engineering professor Waleed Meleis and Deniz Erdogmus, a brain-computer interface expert. Using an open-source flight simulator called FlightGear, the group designed a system that can distinguish between eight commands at a rate of two seconds per command, achieving accurate results about 80 percent of the time. Erdogmus gave the group access to his equipment, which allows a user to control computers or robots with signals from different parts of the body.