'It soared out of view': our editor-in-chief test drives the Emotiv mind-controlled drone

Fly a drone with the sheer power of the mind? Sounds like something an illusionist would promise, or that I might have seen on Tomorrow's World, the long-running BBC show on the future that is now of the past.

And yet that is what I did on Sunday in Dubai. True, it was a small drone, and my mind was enabled with a highly-sophisticated headset. But in essence, that is what I did.

Thanks to Emotiv, a company with cutting-edge technology that can harness the power of your brain, we can now map how a mind works and how it can be trained to move objects.

As I stood in the grounds of the Atlantis, The Palm, Olivier Oullier, president of Emotiv, placed the company's headset on my head and his colleague adjusted a tablet to read my brain’s activity. I was asked to still my mind – a difficult feat in front of curious onlookers and a couple of photographers looking on.

After recording the behavior of my still mind for eight seconds, I was asked to concentrate my thoughts on trying to make the drone fly. Eight more seconds and the practice run was over.

Then, with Mr Oullier holding the drone and the tablet recording my brain activity, I was told to think about levitating it. I looked at it, willed it to fly, but no action. It appeared that the connection between the drone, my headset and the tablet needed adjusting.

On my second try, after a slight hesitation, the drone flew up, but crashed quickly into Mr Oullier’s chest. But at least we had lift off, if not much flying.

By this point, I felt my mind wander to the sessions at the Global Education and Skills Forum that I had to get back to. I was also wondering about how the editorial work back at The National's headquarters in Abu Dhabi was developing. And while no physical strength was required, the sheer concentration and anticipation left me somewhat in need of a rest.


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Mr Oullier seemed to sense my distraction. He told me to clear my mind and concentrate, and I realised I hadn’t really been able to focus on the task at hand with the distractions around me. So I committed to thinking solely about flying this drone and we gave it another go.

I decided to close my eyes – even if that looked somewhat odd to those watching me. As I focused on the image of the drone possibly lifting off I thought ‘just fly’. And it did. The drone took off and I continued to shout silently to myself ‘fly, fly...'.

It continued to soar to the delight of those around me. It lifted high above one of several giant tents hosting discussions at the forum – and we lost contact with it.

The drone landed out of view, presumably above the tent, meaning the Emotiv team no doubt needed the help of crew to retrieve it. While I took a few seconds to comprehend the power of thought being enough to fly a drone, I felt joyful that I had unlocked a part of my mind I had never realised could be used.

Four tips to secure IoT networks

Mohammed Abukhater, vice president at FireEye in the Middle East, said:

- Keep device software up-to-date. Most come with basic operating system, so users should ensure that they always have the latest version

- Besides a strong password, use two-step authentication. There should be a second log-in step like adding a code sent to your mobile number

- Usually smart devices come with many unnecessary features. Users should lock those features that are not required or used frequently

- Always create a different guest network for visitors


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July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

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