First of all, Firefox and Chrome came along and transformed the browser landscape offering processing power and security not previously imaginable in the world of Internet Explorer. Suddenly web-browsers could provide rich, responsive experiences to the users, without the need for plugins. Which was just as well, as with Apple almost singlehandedly killing Flash by refusing to support it on iPhone or iPad, and Java rapidly becoming a securityhole nightmare, users no longer wanted to have to install plugins on their web-browsers.
At Realise, we wanted to try this out for ourselves and see if the hype was real. So we got our hands on a quadcopter that can be controlled over Wi-Fi. Then we acquired an EEG headset (a series of sensors that sit on the skin and pick up high-level emotions such as happiness, concentration) which can be communicated with over Bluetooth. Using a few open-source libraries, and a little of our own code, we soon had the two devices communicating. The resulting experience: A brave volunteer/test subject wears the EEG headset, and if they can concentrate enough, the quadcopter takes off. The longer they can retain a high level of focus, the higher the quadcopter will climb till finally performing a back-flip in the air.
So controlling a quadcopter with just your mind — that’s pretty cool. But it’s not very… internet-y. Next, we decided to put aside the EEG headset and wrote a simple web-service that listens on Twitter for certain keywords (yes, like Twitter spam-bots) and made the quadcopter react to those instead. Now the person controlling the quadcopter didn’t even need to be in the same room as it. We tested this with the quadcopter active in our Edinburgh boardroom, but being controlled by someone Tweeting from the London office, and watching the results over Skype. Trust me, this experience was both thrilling and terrifying.