US Military Researching Most Advanced Human to Computer Connection

The most common input solution between man and machine today is the mouse and keyboard, closely followed by the touchscreen. Output is of course the screen and speakers of your device. Virtual reality devices coming to the market the next few years might revolutionize our way of connecting to machines. However, watching a screen, how ever we do it, will never be most effective connection to our brains.

The US military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, is working on a new, different kind of connection. A more natural one, a direct brain interface called Neural Engineering System Design (NESD).


Direct brain interfaces do already exist today. Luigi Galvani (1791) provided the first scientific evidence that small currents sent to different parts of the brain can activate muscles. During the 19th and 20th centuries, researchers studied and documented the exact electrical properties that generate muscle movement. It was discovered that the body functions induced by electrical stimulation caused long-term changes in the muscles.

Brainwave reading technology is also something that has been tested and proved working many years ago. It works by looking for and identifying patterns in our brainwaves. The next step is connecting neurons to computers.

Direct brain interface

Right now, human-computer interfaces connect a large number of neurons – somewhere between 100 and 1,000 at a time. DARPA is working on ways to connect individual neurons directly to a computer. This would give much finer control, reduce noise and, in theory, speed up communications between a human and a computer.

Whenever i hear about this kind of technology, my brain naturally goes to imagine how it can be used for gaming and virtual reality experiences. But thinking one step further, have you seen the movie surrogates? If not, at least watch the trailer. You will understand the potential power of this technology and how much it can change our society.

direct brain interface matrix

So, when will we the public, be able to take advantage for this technology? Unfortunately not in many years. Though anything funded by DARPA has the end goal of a military application, the NESD programme ties into the brain research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (Brain) initiative, launched by Barack Obama in 2013, which pledged $100m towards research aiming to cure or help brain disorders and brain damage.

The lofty goal of connecting individual neurons to a machine will require breakthroughs in neuroscience, synthetic biology, low-power electronics, photonics and medical device manufacturing, as well as clinical testing before research really can gain pace.


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