Aug 2018
by Andreas Will

Excavator control via brain-computer interface

Excavator control by means of brain-computer interface

Controlling an excavator using only your thoughts sounds like the future – but it is already possible today. At the 2017 Ars Electronica Festival, construction equipment manufacturer Wacker Neuson presented this technology to the public for the first time.

The user wears a cap fitted with electrodes and, after a short training phase, is able to execute the excavator movements he wants 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 at a safe distance. Eye tracking is also an option.

Excavator control via Brain-Computer-Interface

The first version of this technology was very well received at the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, impressing users and visitors alike. Based on its success, Wacker Neuson decided to have Ars Electronica Solutions further develop the control system to inspire visitors and future employees and to demonstrate its future viability.

Garamantis develops interface software

Garamantis was asked to quickly develop middleware that would robustly connect the various interfaces and directly address the excavator’s 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. Safety was of paramount importance, as the six-tonne machine must not cause any damage.

Just a few days after the order was placed, Garamantis delivered the software that communicates between the hardware from 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 its new form at the CompactDays on 6 and 7 April 2018 at the company’s headquarters in Hörsching.

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