A Cal Hacks 3.0 team outfitted a Tesla to be driven with mind control technology during the annual campus hackathon in November.
Make School, a San Francisco technical school, students Abenezer Mamo, Casey Spencer and Lorenzo Caoile, along with UC Riverside student Vivek Vinodh, comprised the third-place-winning team that created what they called the Teslapathic Project. The team adapted an existing technology called an electroencephalogram, or EEG, headset to allow the car to be operated with mind control.
“We decided to create Teslapathic after seeing the recent trend toward autonomous and self-driving vehicles,” Vinodh said in an email. “We wanted to tackle the problem in a unique way which gave the controller more freedom while still having control of the vehicle.”
The team created a machine learning program for an EEG headset — a technology generally used to check for unusual brain activity — which allows it to detect whether the user is thinking “stop” or “go.” They then developed an interface that translated that headset’s output into a radio signal and also installed a machine into the driver’s seat which uses these radio signals to control the pedals.
UC Berkeley freshman Aakash Adesara, who served as Cal Hacks director this year, said this team has been conducting similar projects for the past three years. According to Adesara, Cal Hacks gave the team as much support as possible to help their project come to fruition.
Every fall at California Memorial Stadium, both UC Berkeley students and developers unaffiliated with the campus participate in the hackathon. Participants are given 36 hours to bring their projects and ideas to life through programming. Free food and drinks are provided to participants. For those travelling from other universities in the state, Cal Hacks also provides free transportation to and from the event.
“Since hackathons are collaborative environments, we were able to get help from mentors when we needed it,” Vinodh said in an email. “Also, (the) fast-paced environment forced us to work smart and efficiently.“
Corporate sponsors for this year’s Cal Hacks included IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and Facebook. Cal Hacks also partnered with the University of California Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society.
“There’s so much that goes into finding people for partnerships, sponsorships and the attendees themselves,” Adesara said. “My favorite part of directing Cal Hacks was being able to reach out to so many people for one cohesive event.”