First launched on Kickstarter back in November 2012, the Puzzlebox Orbit brain-controlled helicopter is creating quite the buzz at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, drawing throngs of people who all want to try levitating the helicopter with their minds.
While the Orbit helicopter requires a mobile device to fly, it doesn't function as a remote control like other app-controlled flying drones. In fact, it is the NeuroSky MindWave Mobile EEG headset (the same one in the Necomimi brain-controlled cat ears) that reads and sends your brainwaves to the smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth, where the app converts your brain activity into flight instructions for the helicopter. Details like the height and direction of the flight are then beamed to the helicopter through the Infrared Blaster, which is plugged into the headphone jack for power.
To get the helicopter into the air, you have to focus on the flying object to the point where it takes off: the harder you concentrate, the higher it flies. If you relax the helicopter will just drop to the ground, so you have to sustain your focus to keep the device in the air. You can change the threshold settings in the app to make it easier to control the helicopter, or increase the difficulty as you get the hang of it.
Technically, the Orbit is compatible with both iOS and Android devices but because the app is still waiting for approval from the iOS App Store, the Puzzlebox reps only demoed the Orbit on Android devices like the Google Nexus 7.
Besides getting the Orbit into stores, Puzzlebox really want to get more developers thinking about different uses of Brain-Computer-Interface so it has already released its source code and hardware schematics to make its technology easy to hack (as promised in its Kickstarter campaign). We can't wait to see what else BCI developers come up with.