Pierre Sedi Nzakuna, finalist in Computer Engineering at the Polytechnic Faculty of the University of Kinshasa, is developing a prototype capable of controlling objects by thought.
This young Congolese, 25, presented and defended, on Saturday January 7, 2023, his memory work carried out for eight (8) months around the subject: “Design of an asynchronous real-time brain-machine interface for piloting at remote robotic systems using the Emotiv EPOC+ helmet: Case of the Smart Video Car robot. »
For Pierre Sedi Nzakuna, “controlling objects by thought is a dream as old as the world, an aspiration as old as the existence of humanity which has inspired legends and myths in the four corners of the earth and created fantastic characters. , sometimes divine, through the rich history of peoples and civilizations that have succeeded one another here below”.
He explains that “Levitating objects by thought or reading the minds of other people has been associated, over the ages, with magic, since humans are not born with these abilities and those who have manifested them have always claimed to have received them in a supernatural way”.
Controlling objects by thought… yes, but how? It is to this thousand-year-old and philosophical question that the finalist in Computer Engineering of the Polytechnic Faculty of UNIKIN, Pierre Sedi Nzakuna, leaned in his work to try to scientifically study the feasibility of the thing and to realize the prototype. of a system capable of controlling objects by thought.
Development and testing
To achieve his goals, Pierre Sedi Nzakuna designed a “Brain-Machine Interface”, that is to say a system capable of reading the activity of the human brain and sending it to a computer. This, using a neural helmet placed on the head of the individual.
Thus, the system he has put in place processes the information received from the brain in real time, to associate each “thought” with an action, for example: turn left, turn right, or do nothing.
In addition, he has attached to his system a small robotic car which is supposed to move in the direction commanded by thought.
To test the system, he invited six (6) volunteers to take part in the experiment, including 3 males and 3 females, mainly between the ages of 21 and 29. These volunteers then followed the protocol of the science experiment, which allowed them to pilot the car, making it move forward, left or right.
“The success of our experience with these volunteers sufficiently proves that it is indeed possible, today, to control objects by thought”, he maintains.
As part of this work, student Pierre Sedi Nzakuna used various scientific disciplines including: neuroscience, signal processing theories, artificial intelligence and machine learning, software engineering, embedded systems and mechatronics.
Practical applications and social impact
Pierre Sedi Nzakuna informs that most of the volunteers who took part in the tests appreciated his system as being a high-tech gadget. This can be used, for example, to control smart home devices or systems remotely by thought.
However, the Congolese student finalist thinks his system is much more useful in helping people with severe disabilities regain motor skills and mobility by controlling their wheelchair by thought instead of needing help. of someone, or by controlling certain objects in their environment directly by their thoughts.
Future scientific work
Pierre Sedi makes it known that his system is still at the prototype stage, it still needs to be perfected.
Research on brain-machine interfaces is progressing across the world in top international universities and institutes, and much effort is being made to get these systems out of the labs to make them marketable and accessible to the general public.
In future research work, he aims to miniaturize his system, expand its object control capabilities, and increase its performance. All this, to prepare it for general public use.
Recommendations to the Congolese State
Inspired by the famous quote of General Charles De Gaulle “the difficult thing is not to get out of X but to get out of the ordinary”, the finalist Pierre Sedi strongly encourages the Congolese State to invest more in financing and the promotion of scientific research in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
It should be noted that the materials used for the research in question were all imported from abroad at a total cost of more than 900 USD.
According to Pierre Sedi, future electrical civil engineer, it is possible to manufacture this equipment on site if adequate industries are set up.