November 26, 2012
Company Offering Thought-Controlled Helicopter Toy
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Want to get your kids the coolest Christmas present ever? One California-based company is producing a toy helicopter controlled completely by thought -- and, yes, it is currently on track for December delivery.
According to The Daily Mail, the gizmo is called the Orbit, and it is being produced by Puzzlebox in San Francisco. The London-based newspaper says that the company is touting the helicopter as "both an entertaining novelty item and an educational tool."
The project is currently listed on the crowd-funding website Kickstarter, where as of Monday morning it had already gained over 275 backers and more than quadrupled its $10,000 goal, with 12 days remaining on its fund-raising drive. According to that page, the company has been producing similar products for classroom use for two years, and is now looking to make them available to the general public.
"As you focus your mind on something -- whether it be a math equation or the lyrics of a song -- your brain produces electric signals," co-founder and CEO Steve Cattelotti told CNN's George Webster on Friday. "The headset monitors those signals and converts them into flight commands“¦ When you concentrate, up it goes; when you mentally relax, it comes back down again."
The Orbit "features a unique spherical design that protects helicopter blades from unintended impact with objects such as walls and ceilings, while lending a pleasantly technical aesthetic," the Puzzlebox Kickstarter page says. The company claims, while remote-control helicopters tend to be thought of a fragile, Orbit prototypes have managed to "survive several falls and collisions" and are more durable than your average RC chopper.
Nanowerk News reports that that there will be two different Orbit models made available. One will be usable with smartphones and tablet computers, and requires a special NeuroSky MindWave Mobile EEG headset in order to communicate with the helicopter via Bluetooth. The software "extracts and visualizes your brainwaves in realtime," they explain, and then issues commands to the Orbit unit itself through an infrared adapter that connects to a handset's audio port.
The second model is a self-contained unit that comes with the Puzzlebox Pyramid, which serves as both a home base and a remote control unit for the Orbit, the company explains. It comes with a fully programmable micro-controller, and features 12 multi-colored LED lights which are organized like a clock face and help measure levels of concentration, mental relaxation and EEG signal quality.
The colors and patterns of those lights can be altered to suit personal preferences, and the device can be re-programmed to control other IR toys and devices as well -- even televisions, according to Puzzlebox. The company also will be releasing customization guides and software that will allow users to take the devices apart, alter them, and reassemble them.
"We want to stimulate curiosity about how it all works, and actively invite anyone who buys the Orbit to take it apart, modify it and reprogram it as they see fit," said Cattelotti. "Sure, it's a fun toy first and foremost, but once the initial novelty wears off it doesn't have to end up at the bottom of the toy box ... it's yours to reinvent."
The company is offering a complete Orbit helicopter system, including an infrared adapter for use with Android or iOS smartphones and tablets, for a pledge of $89, according to their Kickstarter page. The NeuroSky MindWave Mobile EEG is not included at that pledge level, but it is at the $149, $169, $189, and $199 levels.
Limited quantities of the $89, $189, and $199 packages are still available, while the $149 and $169 levels are listed as sold out. Orbit units including both the Puzzlebox Pyramid remote control base station and a NeuroSky MindWave EEG headset are available in limited quantities for donations starting at the $249 level.