Do you remember blockbuster ‘Avatar,’ where humans managed to control aliens’ body thanks to the injection of human intelligence into them? It’s been eight years since the film premiered, and today, researchers manage to do the similar thing. In sci-fi movie, we’ve done that to aliens, but in reality to the turtle. Researchers have created a system that allows us to control the motion of turtle with thoughts.

Korean researchers have created a human-turtle interaction system which allows humans to control turtles using just their minds via a brain-computer interface

BCIs Technology

Last few years, many researchers work on so-called brain-computer interfaces ( BCIs ) technology, which allows us to control machines with our thoughts. A recent example of this technology is humanoid Baxter created by MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. The reverse technology of this one is a computer-to-brain interface ( CBI ), which enables transmitting information from a computer to a brain. Researchers from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has demonstrated the possibility of combining these two technologies by creating human-turtle interaction system.

Why turtle? Since the system is set on animal’s instinctive escape behavior, they chose turtle because of its cognitive abilities. Turtles are moving predictably in the environment given that they tend to avoid obstacles, while are attracted to a white light source recognizing it as an open space.

A ‘cyborg system’ which consists of a camera, a Wi-Fi transceiver, a computer control module and a battery is mounted on the turtle’s shell. Image credit: Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)

When their conceptual system and turtle’s ability matched, researchers developed a cyborg system which consists of a camera, a Wi-Fi transceiver, a computer control module, black semi-cylinder with a slit and a battery mounted on the turtle’s shell. On the other side, human operator wears the BCI-HMD (head-mounted display) system which sends him real-time video images from the camera mounted on the turtle. Once images received, the operator decides where the animal should move. The system recognizes three mental states: left, right and idle.

Researchers tested guiding system in several environments and surfaces, such as trees, grass, shallow water and so on. In every situation, the system worked perfectly. Brain-Computer Interface techniques have advanced to a level where it is now eliminating the need for hand-based activation – they stand out in the papers.

Besides their hope that system could be the framework for further human-animal interaction systems, with its developing could be used for military reconnaissance and surveillance and other various applications.