Step 8: Fly RC Helicopter Using Puzzlebox Brainstorms

Picture of Fly RC Helicopter Using Puzzlebox Brainstorms
Puzzlebox Brainstorms is a free, open source, cross-platform software application which permits Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) control of vehicles, devices, and toys such as LEGO Mindstorms, Radio Controlled Helicopters, and even electric wheelchairs.

In this Instructable we will use this software to fly our helicopter forward, hover, and/or land automatically based on detected levels of concentration and relaxation from an EEG headset such as the NeuroSky MindSet or Emotiv EPOC.

The first step, after loading the application, is to connect to the Puzzlebox Synapse server which was prepared in the previous step. The server can exist on the same computer system or be accessed remotely across a network or the Internet over TCP/IP. Click on the "Control Panel" tab of Puzzlebox Brainstorms and after verifying the Host and Port settings, click "Connect" to begin receiving EEG detections.

Next click on the "RC Helicopter" tab.

The transmitter chip should have already been extracted and connected to the computer system as described in earlier steps. The USB-to-Serial interface will appear as a COM port under Windows or a /dev/ttyUSB serial device under Linux. By default, when "Concentration" or "Relaxation" levels reach a certain threshold (approximately 60% or higher, specificed in the "puzzlebox_brainstorms_configration.ini" file) the "Speed" meter will begin to fill and the Radio Controlled Helicopter will take off in "Hover" mode. Once concentration or relaxation levels fall below that threshold the helicopter automatically land.

If using an Emotiv EPOC headset, you can assign arbitrary detections to helicopter functions by linking through the "EmoKey" program to the following keyboard shortcuts:

"Home" or "[" - Hover
"Page Up" or "]" - Fly Forward
"End" or "\" - Land

Layman's Explanation:

(Note: this explanation is not 100% accurate but may be a helpful way to visualize and understand what is going on)

Pretend you are standing outside of a baseball stadium while a game is on. You can't see the players on the field (we can't "read your mind") but every once in awhile, you can hear the crowd cheer and shout and you know something exciting is happening. We know that when this happens, it means you are paying attention. You can think of the electrode which rests on the temple as an antenna that is picking up a broadcast of the crowd cheering. When we tune to just the right station on the dial and hear that roar of excitement, we know that you are concentrating.

The human brain is made up of approximately 100 billion neurons which are constantly exchanging and signaling information through chemical processes that produce electricity. When a region of the brain related to a particular function is highly active, small changes in electrical activity can be measured on the surface of the scalp directly over that region.

Just as with the remote control circuit, we measure these levels and changes in electrical activity in volts (although the changes are many orders of magnitude smaller). If you were to pull a single AA battery out of the remote control you would find written on the side "1.5v" which indicates the normal charge of that battery to be 1.5 volts. We measure the electrical signals of the brain in millionths of volts (microvolts), using an EEG which in essence is just an extremely sensitive voltmeter.

When we measure the electrical readings of the brain using an EEG headset, we can use mathematics to process the signal. Coupled with knowledge that the electrode has been placed at the cerebral cortex (the frontal lobe of the brain, right under the forehead), along with measurements taken a neutral ground reference (such as on the user's ear, where there are no neurons) we can make calculations about levels of attention, focus, and relaxation.