Controlling an excavator using only your thoughts sounds like the future – but it is already possible today. For the first time at the Ars Electronica Festival 2017, the German construction machinery company Wacker Neuson presented this technical possibility to the general public.
The implementation works in such a way that the user wears a cap fitted with electrodes and, after a short training phase, already implements the excavator movements that he would like to trigger with his thoughts. He imagines the desired movement in his mind’s eye and then actually triggers it on the excavator, which is standing at a safe distance. Optionally, control is also possible via eye tracking.
The first version of this technology was very well received at the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz and impressed users and visitors. Due to its success, Wacker Neuson decided to have the control system further developed by Ars Electronica Solutions in order to inspire visitors to the company as well as future employees and to demonstrate future viability.
Garamantis develops interface software
Garamantis was commissioned to develop middleware at short notice that robustly connects the various interfaces and directly addresses the excavator controls. Actions such as turning left and right, raising and lowering the excavator arm and moving the bucket were some of the 8 control commands in total. The top priority in everything was safety, as the six-tonne machine must of course not cause any damage.
Only a few days after the order was placed, Garamantis delivered the software that communicates between the hardware of the electrode cap manufacturer gtec medical engineering, the training monitor and the excavator control system. An Arduino with WLAN was installed in the excavator electronics for direct control. After installation and testing on site, the brain-computer interface was put into operation and presented in a new form at the CompactDays on 6 and 7 April 2018 at the company headquarters in Hörsching.