The NeuroCONCISE team from the University of Ulster have entered the BCI discipline at Cybathlon 2016. We caught up with team leader Damien Coyle and asked him the questions you all wanted to know.
How did you hear about Cybathlon?
I got the first flyer at a BCI workshop I went to, so it was fairly early on that I knew it was happening. From there it was direct contact, because I’m really integrated within the BCI community.
What do you think about competitions for technology development?
I’m always interested in competitions and have been working in BCI since 2002. These types of things are challenging, and they can be difficult or time-consuming but they’re really good to get involved in as they help you validate what you’re doing. It’s a key thing to test your systems and your technologies.
Does Cybathlon differ from other competitions you’ve entered in the challenges it poses?
It is totally different because this is a real-time application challenge, and you’re working with people with physical impairments, as they are the pilots. Other BCI competitions give you a set of pre-loaded data that has been recorded and you have to give the labels of the different activities that the person was doing. There will be data with test labels and without, so it’s all offline data analysis. There’s no real-time element to it at all.
Why do you think Cybathlon has such a good format?
The other competitions have been a good test of algorithms and training, but it wasn’t testing the real-world. Cybathlon will test technology in a real-world setting with real-time control, and all the challenges that brings. There are so many things that could go wrong, so you have to deal with all that and try to produce the best outcomes at the competition.
Do you have a pilot?
I’ve got a guy locally to here and he’s young and enthusiastic. I think he is going to be our pilot now.
Will you go to the rehearsal?
Yes we have plans to go to that. We secured some funding and that is our intention. But because we had issues finding a pilot we’ve had a little bit of a setback in making progress planning for that. I have secured about £6,000 to cover it, and we are definitely confident we can make it even though we haven’t had a lot of sessions with the pilot.
How is the training going?
We will ramp it up in June, because I haven’t had much time to work on the real-time element. We have the game from Cybathlon and have been doing some testing with able-bodied participants. We are making slow but steady progress on it.
Is the game different to what you expected?
It’s a challenging enough game! You are kind of expected to have three classes* and a no control state. Whereas we’ve been used to having two classes with the no control state not really necessary. With the Cybathlon game there are three different things you have to do: one of them is jump, one is speed, and one of them is kick your opponent. You have to do these at certain times, but on top of that if the system detects you are doing these outside the movements it slows you or your character falls. You have to have the no-control state where the system detects you are not trying to do one of the other three. That is a challenge.
[*Class = technology normally involves the imagination of left and right movements, which are known as classes. So you imagine left to move the cursor or character left, and vice versa. There are targets on the left or the right, and that dictates what class you are aiming for. So it is class left, class right, or class 1, class 2.]
Image: Courtesy of NeuroCONCISE