The first thing you need to know about mind-controlled helicopters is that they feed on relaxation or concentration. So when the Puzzlebox Orbit started lifting off the ground before I could even start to meditate, I have to assume it’s because CES had already reduced my brain to ooze.
The video above was shot after multiple attempts, when I’d finally coerced my mind into getting hyperactive enough to prevent the helicopter from immediately flying away. Usually it’s not that easy — Puzzlebox CEO Steve Castellotti recommends simple brain exercises, such as solving math problems or running through the alphabet in another language to get the chopper airborne.
To fly the Puzzlebox Orbit, you must wear an electroencephalography (EEG) headset, made by NeuroSky, with one prong that connects to your forehead, and a clip that attaches to your earlobe. The headset measures electrical activity in the brain, and sends the data to an iOS or Android device paired via Bluetooth. Once you reach a user-defined threshold of attention or meditation, an infrared emitter connected to the phone or tablet instructs the helicopter to fly.
Keep in mind, though, that EEG readings can only control so much. While it’s possible to make the helicopter levitate or hover, steering it in multiple directions through mind control is out of the question.
Puzzlebox hopes that the Orbit, its first commercial product, will help educate people about the principles of neuroscience while teaching them how to focus or relax. The company will also let users tinker with the product, as it’s publishing all software, protocols and hardware schematics under open source licenses.
The $199 product was successfully funded on Kickstarter last month, and Puzzlebox was at CES looking to secure wider retail distribution. NeuroSky sells the standalone headset, which works with several iOS and Android apps, for $100, as well as a pair of brainwave cat ears for the same price.