The US military Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have announced the formation of a new research program that will eventually create “cyborg” soldiers capable of connecting and communicating directly with computers.
The Neural Engineering System Design (NESD) project will be tasked with designing a human computer interface that will literally join man and machine together.
Not that the premise of creating human “cyborgs” is a new phenomenon. Technological advances from the last 25 years mean that Scientists and researchers have been mixing up biology with machines for more than 2 decades. The problem with true “Cyborg” interconnectivity is that current human to computer interfaces can only handle connecting to 100 – 1000 neurons at a time.
DARPA said it wants to improve the technology so that soldiers will be able to use a system that can communicate clearly and individually with any of up to one million neurons in a specific region of the brain.
The NESD project aims to allow computers to connect directly to these individual neurons, which would increase speed and provide finer control. The proposed implantable neural interface hopes to leapfrog over current attempts at human implantable neural interface that will establish a direct means of communication between human and machine.
“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.”
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.
DARPA anticipates investing up to $60 million in the NESD program over four years.
While the concept of cyborg soldiers immediately brings to mind some quite bad films starring Jean Claude van Damme, and one good RoboCop film, the technology will have uses outside of the military field, not least the replacement of lost limbs, restoration of sight and other senses, as well as the control of disease.