Brain-controlled devices are a part of everyday life, and drones controlled just by thinking can transform great pans of industries such as military service or industry disaster. To help students grasp how human-technology interaction can create smarter environments and enable easier communications with the machines around them, the De Vinci Innovation Center develops new AI-enabled brain-computer interfaces for drone swarm robotics.
“So, what if you could type directly from your brain?” This line was asked on the stage of F8, Facebook’s annual conference, in 2017. The event marked the first time that the Big Tech officialized its plans for mind-control technology through artificial intelligence and augmented reality. Today, mind-controlled drones are already a reality. But more than enabling new drone applications, brain-computer interface (BCI) technologies allow humans to communicate directly with machines, therefore influencing all facets of life. For engineering students at ESILV, these systems present new opportunities for exploration and discovery.
Drone swarms controlled with brain-computer interface
The DroneLab is part of the De Vinci Higher Education Artificial Lives innovation group, embedded in the De Vinci Innovation Center. The research and learning hub – used as a part of the engineering curriculum – explores two main streams : human-machine interfaces (HMI) and swarm robotics.
Although they are seen as the time-changing weapon of the future, swarms enabled by artificial intelligence are also known to be associated with major control problems. And what if, with a simple thought, we could control a fleet of drones? What if humans could directly transmit their intentions to a multitude of machines? A group of engineering students from ESILV seeks to find answers to such questions through their research and project-based course on swarm robotics.
As part of their Creative Technology unit, the students are working on a new kind of human-computer interface that allows them to control several drones in a swarm. While individual drones are conventionally controlled through hand gestures, the new BCI systems allow controlling a collective of drones by just thinking.
According to the De Vinci Innovation center‘s website, “this is where swarm robotics are special, they take inspiration from nature, where bees and ants collaborate to accomplish tasks that wouldn’t be possible to one individual. A set of rules or simple algorithms and behaviors is programmed into the drones (or other robots), and the operator can then give orders to the swarm, which will organize itself to obey said order.”