EEG control of a virtual helicopter in 3-dimensional space using intelligent control strategies

Audrey S. Royer, Alexander J. Doud, Minn L. Rose, Bin He

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

187 Scopus citations


Films like Firefox, Surrogates, and Avatar have explored the possibilities of using braincomputer interfaces (BCIs) to control machines and replacement bodies with only thought. Real world BCIs have made great progress toward that end. Invasive BCIs have enabled monkeys to fully explore 3-D space using neuroprosthetics. However, noninvasive BCIs have not been able to demonstrate such mastery of 3-D space. Here, we report our work, which demonstrates that human subjects can use a noninvasive BCI to fly a virtual helicopter to any point in a 3-D world. Through use of intelligent control strategies, we have facilitated the realization of controlled flight in 3-D space. We accomplished this through a reductionist approach that assigns subject-specific control signals to the crucial components of 3-D flight. Subject control of the helicopter was comparable when using either the BCI or a keyboard. By using intelligent control strategies, the strengths of both the user and the BCI system were leveraged and accentuated. Intelligent control strategies in BCI systems such as those presented here may prove to be the foundation for complex BCIs capable of doing more than we ever imagined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5585778
Pages (from-to)581-589
Number of pages9
JournalIEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Manuscript received June 04, 2010; revised July 23, 2010 and August 28, 2010; accepted September 08, 2010. Date of publication September 27, 2010; date of current version December 08, 2010. This work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under Grant CBET-0933067, and in part by the National Institutes of Health under Grant NIH RO1EB007920 and Grant NIH T32EB008389. *A. S. Royer and A. J. Doud contributed equally to this work.


  • Braincomputer interface (BCI)
  • electroencephalography (EEG)
  • three-dimensional (3-D)


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