Put Down the Controller: Fly This Helicopter With Your Brain

The Puzzlebox Orbit is a great way to kill time without killing brain cells. Also, it's a toy helicopter.

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If you haven’t experienced the joy of flying an RC helicopter, you're probably normal. But seriously, you should stop what you’re doing and find the nearest Brookstone. There is something so satisfying about maneuvering a miniature harbinger of fear around your kitchen. This is 2013, though—we can do better. Like controlling a helicopter with your brain better.

If that doesn’t sound tempting, then check your pulse. For the rest of us helicopter geeks (please don't take my lunch money), it's time to get up close and personal with the Puzzlebox Orbit.

Puzzlebox, a company based out of San Francisco, has been making software to control devices like helicopters, robots, and wheelchairs via your brain. It launched a Kickstarter in November for the Orbit, which is a simple helicopter that reads your brainwaves.

In order to control the Orbit, you must purchase a separate headset from NeuroSky ($100), a company that specializes in Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) technology. This headset will determine your attention levels, and how calm you are—and these measurements trigger the helicopter's motor.

Once the headset is on, it can interface with a tablet app (available for iOS and Android). This app lets you set a threshold for either attention or meditation (calmness). If you set the app to attention mode, the helicopter will start to fly once you reach a set level of focus. If set to meditation, the copter will take off once you are sufficiently calm—a rather difficult feat on a busy show floor.

Unsurprisingly, the Puzzlebox Orbit was a blast to use. Once you get the helicopter to take off, it becomes a challenge to keep it afloat. Laughter would decrease focus and increase meditation. Staring at the helicopter like you have telepathic powers that could destroy it appeared to be the most effective way to really harness attention.

The slightly-less-cool but way cuter Necomimi, from Japanese company Neurowear, was also on display. Necomimi is a pair of cat ears that attach to a brainwave headset. The idea is the same in that if your attention levels are higher, the ears will stand up; if you are relaxed, they go down. Adorable!

Brainwave technology is an interesting field. Don’t be surprised if you see more great toys and smartphone/tablet apps taking advantage of features like this in the near future. Companies like Haier have even partnered with NeuroSky to make brainwave games for TVs. The best part about these gadgets is how you can be completely lazy and still enjoy them: You don't need to move a muscle to get the Puzzlebox Orbit to fly... unless you're one of those people that considers the brain a muscle.

Both the Puzzlebox Orbit ($200) and Necomimi ($100) are available now.

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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