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Using your body to control a drone is more effective than a joystick

Elbowy gamers, you were onto something.
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EPFL

If you've ever been chastised for throwing your entire body around during gaming (because physically leaning into track corners definitely helps somehow), here's a bit of science-backed vindication. Researchers in Switzerland have discovered that using your torso to control a drone is far more effective than using a joystick.

The team from EPFL monitored the body movements and muscular activity of 17 people, each with 19 markers placed all over their upper bodies. The participants then followed the actions of a virtual drone through simulated landscapes, via virtual reality goggles. By observing motion patterns, the scientists found that only four markers located on the torso were needed to pilot a drone through an obstacle course, and that the method outperformed joystick control in both precision and reliability.

The study's lead author, Jenifer Miehlbradt of EPFL's Translational Neuroengineering Laboratory, said: "Using your torso really gives you the feeling that you are actually flying. Joysticks, on the other hand, are of simple design but mastering their use to precisely control distant objects can be challenging."

The proof-of-concept system still depends on body markers and external motion detectors to work, so the team's next challenge will be making the tech wearable and completely independent. However, the range of applications for it are enormous. Being able to virtually fly while your head, limbs, hand and feet are free to perform other tasks could be a major development for gaming, drone control or even the planes of the future.

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