Use the Force… or Your Brainwaves? (multifuctional Thought Controlled System)

As a kid I always wanted to have a special ability, like moving objects with thoughts or flying. I tried to move objects with “the power of my mind” of course with no success. Well, yes, I was and I am a huge Star Wars fan, but I also like electronics and programming, so why not combine these two things to build an incredible project?

You can find all parts, codes and libraries with links at the Hardware and Software section.

The main concept is that using different brainwaves the user will be able to control a robot, the cursor on his PC or turn on/off lights in his home, while a microcontroller (Particle Photon) creates an online analyzing about the user’s brainwaves. This is a perfect method to detect diseases or stress and sleepy statement. This also can be used to help people live better their life, learn to control their emotions and how to be always happy. The human brain needs balance, to be healthly, we should sleep, think, move… Using the Particle Photon and the webserver created by the founders of the Particle we can help people to find their natural brain-balance. A childhood dream guided me to this project, and I’m very happy that I made it.

So yes, with this device you can actually use the Force…But if we put Star Wars and the Force away for a bit, this device is not only for lazy people or for fans, it’s made to give back an ability for people who are fighting each day with their disability. The robot that I designed works the same way as a wheelchair, the home automation system would help for the user to control lights or TV-s even if he/she can’t move. The PC controller mode can be useful even for those who is perfectly healthly. I think all of us wants to play computer games or just surf on the internet using only thoughts.

Watch this short introduiction video about the story of the project:

Step 1: The Science Behind the Project


Electroencephalography (EEG) is an electrophysiological monitoring method to record electrical activity of the brain. It is typically noninvasive, with the electrodesplaced along the scalp, although invasive electrodes are sometimes used in specific applications. EEG measures voltage fluctuations resulting from ionic current within the neurons of the brain. Diagnostic applications generally focus on the spectral content of EEG, that is, the type of neural oscillations (popularly called “brain waves”) that can be observed in EEG signals. (thank you Wikipedia) But we’re going to use two very accurate values.

  • Alpha is the frequency range from 7 Hz to 14 Hz. It emerges with closing of the eyes and with relaxation, and attenuates with eye opening or mental exertion.
  • Beta is the frequency range from 15 Hz to about 30 Hz. Low amplitude beta with multiple and varying frequencies is often associated with active, busy or anxious thinking and active concentration.

Step 2: How It Works?


I used four microcontrollers to bring this project to life: an Arduino Mega, an Arduino Leonardo, an UNO and a Particle Photon. The Mega is the brain of the project that receives signals from the headset, analyzes then forwards commands to the other devices. Transmits every data forward to the Photon that creates the webserver. The Leonardo controls the mouse on a PC and the Uno is used to receive IR (infrared signals) and controls the robot. As I said the device is able to control three different things (or more if you want to program anything else). Now I’ll call these three different things channels. The device switches between these channels if you close your eyes:

  • Close your eyes for 1-2 seconds: switches to home automation featurette
  • Close your eyes for 2-4 seconds: switches to robot controller mode
  • Close your eyes for 1-6 seconds: switches to mouse controller mode
  • I used relays to make the home automation featurette you can connect anything to them: TV, light bulbs, wall outlets anything you want

Step 3: The Wireless Headset


I love hacking toys so I bought a brainwave sensing toy called Necomimi, that is able to move its ears depending on your brainwaves (attention, meditation). This is the most useless toy that I’ve ever saw, but there’s inside a small chip that reads brainwaves, filters noise and gives a very good signal. Works with UART (Serial) interface, so with some hacking we can use Arduinos to read brainwaves. The role of this headset is to transmit brainwaves wirelessly to the central server. Nobody wants cables on his head so I created this comfortable and user friendly headset.

Go down to see how to take apart and make a wireless Bluetooth headset out of it.

Step 4: Controlling the Home Automation System


If you are switched to home automation mode increase your attention levelupper than 70 to turn on first relay, increase meditation level upper than 70 to turn on second relay, and increase both of them upper than 70 to turn on third relay. It’s a bit tricky but isn’t imposible after some mind-training. If is already turned on, use the same command to turn it off (so if is turned on reach again 70 to turn it off). When the system is done you can connect any high-voltage device (light, TV, PC, cooler fan, anything you want) to the relay module.

Step 5: Controlling the Mouse

The cursor is controlled with emotions. If attention level is under 25 moves left, if is between 25 and 50 moves right, if is between 50 and 75 moves up and if isbetween 75 and 100 moves down. You can click by increasing meditation level. As I said before the attention level can be easily controlled with emotions (for me).

Step 6: Controlling the Robot


The robot has only three different statements: stop, turn left, and move forward. Why only two movement options? Because these two directions are enough to move the robot anywhere you want. Use your meditation level to spin with the robot, and when you reached the direction where you want to move stop the robot then move forward with the attention level. It’s a better method to control the robot and even beginners, who can’t control their attention/meditation values so good, can play with this robot.

Step 7: Gaming

All of us likes video games. And yes, with the cursor controller you actually can play your favorite PC games with your thoughts. But wait, the headset is also compatible with any of the Neurosky games. Clcik here to view them. I tried out a lot of them and it was incredible. I used just the power of my mind and played car racing games, advanture gamesit was awesome!!

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