Flying a Helicopter With My Brain

Puzzlebox uses the Neurosky headset and a tablet to let me fly a helicopter by just thinking about it

1 min read
Flying a Helicopter With My Brain

I’ve tried out the Neurosky MindWave peripheral before. It’s a headband with EEG sensors that, paired with software, let’s you control things by thinking. It’s a pretty rudimentary form of control, essentially a dial-up/dial-down function; concentrating activates the controller, losing focus stops whatever you’ve doing. In past years, I played video games with the device, with limited success.

It’s one thing trying to move an object on a screen by thinking about it. Yeah, you can do it, but it doesn’t seem like a big deal. It’s vastly more interesting (and potentially embarassing) to move a real object through space. So I couldn’t resist trying the latest gadget to use the Neurosky interface, the Puzzlebox Orbit, from a little company called Puzzlebox. The Orbit is a helicopter inside an orb (to keep it from damaging itself when it inevitably crashes). The whole thing is about the size of a basketball. It comes with a transmitter that hooks up to a mobile device, software, and a Neurosky headset; the package costs $189.

Visiting Puzzlebox at Showstoppers, an evening press event held in conjunction with the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, I put on the headset and tried to fly the helicopter. There’s definitely a sense of pressure when you’re trying to think an object into space and it’s just not moving. Finally, running through a set of mental math problems got it airborne.

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Deep Learning Could Bring the Concert Experience Home

The century-old quest for truly realistic sound production is finally paying off

12 min read
Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford

Now that recorded sound has become ubiquitous, we hardly think about it. From our smartphones, smart speakers, TVs, radios, disc players, and car sound systems, it’s an enduring and enjoyable presence in our lives. In 2017, a survey by the polling firm Nielsen suggested that some 90 percent of the U.S. population listens to music regularly and that, on average, they do so 32 hours per week.

Behind this free-flowing pleasure are enormous industries applying technology to the long-standing goal of reproducing sound with the greatest possible realism. From Edison’s phonograph and the horn speakers of the 1880s, successive generations of engineers in pursuit of this ideal invented and exploited countless technologies: triode vacuum tubes, dynamic loudspeakers, magnetic phonograph cartridges, solid-state amplifier circuits in scores of different topologies, electrostatic speakers, optical discs, stereo, and surround sound. And over the past five decades, digital technologies, like audio compression and streaming, have transformed the music industry.

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