It will soon no longer be necessary to use a remote control to control a drone. An MIT laboratory has developed a system to pilot a drone … with the arm muscles.
The Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) of MIT imagined and developed a technology that brings the pilot a little closer to his drone. No more bothering with a remote control: the flying device is controlled by gestures analyzed by a set of sensors placed on the arm muscles.
Machines adapt to men
The system, dubbed Conduct-A-Bot, opens ” a world in which machines that help people do physical and cognitive work adapt to people rather than the other way around “Explains Daniela Rus, director of the CSAIL. To achieve this, the user must wear biceps and triceps as well as the forearm of motion sensors and electromyography, a medical technique to study nerves and muscles.
Algorithms then take over to process the signals from the pilot’s gestures, all in real time and without the need for a calibration step beforehand. Conduct-A-Bot can be used in many scenarios, for example to navigate an interface on electronic devices or to supervise autonomous robots. But to give an idea of the potential of this technology, the CSAIL has paired its system with a drone (Bebop 2 from Parrot).
By detecting the pilot’s movements (rotation, outstretched arm, clenched fist, etc.), the drone heads right, left, up or down. It can also stop and rotate. In the tests carried out by the laboratory, the drone correctly obeys 82% of the orders given by the user (out of a total of 1,500 gestures).
Beyond drones, this technology could be used to remotely control assistance robots, for industrial tasks (lifting heavy objects for example), or for exploring unknown places. In any case, this system is very timely in a context of social distancing made necessary by the coronavirus epidemic.