How would you like to be able to control your gadgets and electronics with the power of thought alone? It may sound like distant science fiction stuff, but we’re actually not that far off, as this mind-controlled flying robot proves.

Minnesota University researchers have successfully tested a new system that enables people to control a quadcopter or flying robot using only their mind. The system is totally noninvasive and uses a special cap designed to capture the electrical activity of the brain.

Study subjects managed to control a mind-controlled quadcopter in flight and guide it past various obstacles.

Granted, this is not mind control how you see it in the movies. This system, along with all recent attempts to transfer thoughts’ electrical patterns into real motion, is based on the idea that an electronic system has to be trained and taught how to recognize the patterns in order to correlate them with movements.

The University of Minnesota’s study was the first to demonstrate that human beings can use their thoughts to control the flight of a flying robot, according to lead author and biomedical engineering professor Bin He.

The technique is entirely noninvasive, as it uses an EEG cap with 64 electrodes to read brainwaves, instead of implanting a chip in the brain. Brainwaves are generally complex and chaotic, but this technology works best when it comes to translating motion commands because our brain’s motor cortex triggers signals that are easier to identify.

The electrode cap reads the signals and passes them on to a computer, which processes them and translates them into commands that are then conveyed via WiFi to the flying robot control systems. The system was tested by five subjects – three female and two male, each of them able to successfully control the quadcopter in flight and guide it past various obstacles.

Possible applications of this technology range from enhancing video game play and virtual reality experiences to assisting motion impaired people. According to Professor He, the research is primarily intended to help paralyzed people or patients with neurodegenerative diseases to regain mobility.

It could also be used to control wheelchairs or other devices and could have a significant impact on prosthetics development, allowing patients t control their artificial limbs more naturally. But the technology may go beyond assisting disabled patients, with the potential of enhancing movement functions for the healthy population, beyond what we can accomplish at the moment.

What do you think of this mind-controlled motion technology? What other uses could it have?

[Image via Mashable]