The US Military Wants a Chip to Translate Your Brain Activity Into Binary Code
Admittedly this is bordering on sci-fi but it’s actually true as you’ll read for your self. I don’t know if it’s just me but it seems like we’re progressing rather rapidly in these types of areas of research and science.
While it is amazing one can already foresee the many ethical and privacy implications this will eventually have. I can see it now, having to check the “Agree To Terms and Conditions” before continuing check box. Then there’s the hacking and modding of someones brain, not to mention the need for a robust anti virus and malware software.
I made light of those concerns but of course they are very real ones, or will be eventually if this one day becomes a commercially available thing. Very interesting nonetheless.
Here is an article by Gizmodo on this topic and then I’ve included the actual DARPA article to follow.
It’s been a weird day for weird science. Not long after researchers claimed victory in performing a head transplant on a monkey, the US military’s blue-sky R&D agency announced a completely insane plan to build a chip that would enable the human brain to communicate directly with computers. What is this weird, surreal future?
It’s all real, believe it or not. Or at least DARPA desperately wants it to be. The first wireless brain-to-computer interface actually popped up a few years ago, and DARPA’s worked on various brain chip projects over the years. But there are shortcomings to existing technology: According to today’s announcement, current brain-computer interfaces are akin to “two supercomputers trying to talk to each other using an old 300-baud modem.” They just aren’t fast enough for truly transformative neurological applications, like restoring vision to a blind person. This would ostensibly involve a camera that can transmit visual information directly to the brain, and then the implant would translate the data into neural language.
To accomplish this magnificent feat, DARPA is launching a new program called Neural Engineering System Design (NESD) that stands to squeeze some characteristically bonkers innovation out of the science community. In a press release, the agency describes what’s undoubtedly the closest thing to a Johnny Mneumonic plot-line you’ve ever seen in real life. It reads:
A new DARPA program aims to develop an implantable neural interface able to provide unprecedented signal resolution and data-transfer bandwidth between the human brain and the digital world. The interface would serve as a translator, converting between the electrochemical language used by neurons in the brain and the ones and zeros that constitute the language of information technology.
So DARPA wants to turn neural language into digital code, potentially opening up scenarios wherein the human brain can mainline data and people can talk to machines simply by thinking. Like having the internet inside your head—which would not be overwhelming at all.
END OF GIZMODO ARTICLE.
Here is the actual DARPA article if you would like to check it out:
Bridging the Bio-Electronic Divide
New effort aims for fully implantable devices able to connect with up to one million neurons
A new DARPA program aims to develop an implantable neural interface able to provide unprecedented signal resolution and data-transfer bandwidth between the human brain and the digital world. The interface would serve as a translator, converting between the electrochemical language used by neurons in the brain and the ones and zeros that constitute the language of information technology. The goal is to achieve this communications link in a biocompatible device no larger than one cubic centimeter in size, roughly the volume of two nickels stacked back to back.
The program, Neural Engineering System Design (NESD), stands to dramatically enhance research capabilities in neurotechnology and provide a foundation for new therapies.
“Today’s best brain-computer interface systems are like two supercomputers trying to talk to each other using an old 300-baud modem,” said Phillip Alvelda, the NESD program manager. “Imagine what will become possible when we upgrade our tools to really open the channel between the human brain and modern electronics.”
Among the program’s potential applications are devices that could compensate for deficits in sight or hearing by feeding digital auditory or visual information into the brain at a resolution and experiential quality far higher than is possible with current technology.
Neural interfaces currently approved for human use squeeze a tremendous amount of information through just 100 channels, with each channel aggregating signals from tens of thousands of neurons at a time. The result is noisy and imprecise. In contrast, the NESD program aims to develop systems that can communicate clearly and individually with any of up to one million neurons in a given region of the brain.
Achieving the program’s ambitious goals and ensuring that the envisioned devices will have the potential to be practical outside of a research setting will require integrated breakthroughs across numerous disciplines including neuroscience, synthetic biology, low-power electronics, photonics, medical device packaging and manufacturing, systems engineering, and clinical testing. In addition to the program’s hardware challenges, NESD researchers will be required to develop advanced mathematical and neuro-computation techniques to first transcode high-definition sensory information between electronic and cortical neuron representations and then compress and represent those data with minimal loss of fidelity and functionality.
To accelerate that integrative process, the NESD program aims to recruit a diverse roster of leading industry stakeholders willing to offer state-of-the-art prototyping and manufacturing services and intellectual property to NESD researchers on a pre-competitive basis. In later phases of the program, these partners could help transition the resulting technologies into research and commercial application spaces.
To familiarize potential participants with the technical objectives of NESD, DARPA will host a Proposers Day meeting that runs Tuesday and Wednesday, February 2-3, 2016, in Arlington, Va. The Special Notice announcing the Proposers Day meeting is available at https://www.fbo.gov/spg/ODA/DARPA/CMO/DARPA-SN-16-16/listing.html. More details about the Industry Group that will support NESD is available at https://www.fbo.gov/spg/ODA/DARPA/CMO/DARPA-SN-16-17/listing.html. A Broad Agency Announcement describing the specific capabilities sought will be forthcoming on www.fbo.gov.
NESD is part of a broader portfolio of programs within DARPA that support President Obama’s brain initiative. For more information about DARPA’s work in that domain, please visit: http://www.darpa.mil/program/our-research/darpa-and-the-brain-initiative.
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