DARPA developing tech to let troops control machines with their MINDS

Pentagon working to develop technology that would let troops control machines with their MINDS

  • DARPA selecting teams to develop neural interface as part of new N3 program
  • Non-invasive or ‘minimally invasive’ device would let them send info with brain
  • Means troops could one day control drones and other systems with their minds
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The Pentagon’s research arm is moving forward with a project that intends to bridge the gap between humans and machines.

DARPA will select teams today to develop a neural interface as part of its new N3 program, with a goal of developing systems that would allow troops to send and receive information using their brainwaves, according to Nextgov.

This means troops could one day control drones, cyber defense systems, and other technology with their mind.

It might sound like science fiction, but the agency is looking to see this done in one of two ways: a non-invasive device outside of the body, or a non-surgical system that could be swallowed, injected, or delivered up the nose.


The Pentagon’s research arm is moving forward with a project that intends to bridge the gap between humans and machines. It means troops could one day control drones, cyber defense systems, and other technology with their mind

The interface could mean ‘our brains effectively become the tool’ for interacting with the world around us, Dr Al Emondi, program manager in DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, told Nextgov.

DARPA first released a solicitation for proposals on a ‘nonsurgical neural interface system to broaden the applicability of neural interfaces to the able-bodied warfighter’ back in March.

Now, the agency is ready to choose the teams that could bring such a system to life.

The program is focusing on two technical areas for the device, relying on either a non-invasive or ‘minimally invasive’ system to record and stimulate the brain’s activity.

‘DARPA created N3 to pursue a path to safe, portable neural interface system capable of reading from and writing to multiple points in the brain at once,’ Emondi said when the program launched earlier this year.

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It might sound like science fiction, but the agency is looking to see this done in one of two ways: a non-invasive device outside of the body, or a non-surgical system that could be swallowed, injected, or delivered up the nose

‘High-resolution, nonsurgical neurotechnology has been elusive, but thanks to recent advances in biomedical engineering, neuroscience, synthetic biology, and nanotechnology, we now believe the goal is attainable.’

Eventually, the Pentagon is hoping to achieve a system in which humans can control machines and receive feedback through their minds.

It will unfold over the course of four years, with multiple phases to determine the efficiency, safety, and capabilities of the systems.

HOW IS THE US MILITARY HOPING TO ‘HACK’ SOLDIERS BRAINS?

DARPA’s four-year Targeted Neuroplasticity Training (TNT) program aims to use the body’s peripheral nervous system to accelerate the learning process.

This would be done by activating a process known as ‘synaptic plasticity’ – a key process in the brain involved in learning – with electrical stimulation.

Some teams will be working with intelligence analysts and foreign language specialists to shape the platform around currently training practices.

Researchers will look into using the technique across a wide range of applications, including decision-making and spatial navigation, speech perception, and threat recognition.

‘Imagine you’re struggling to learn something new, like multiplication tables or how to hit a golf ball,’ said Dr Robert Rennaker, of the University of Texas at Dallas’ Texas Biomedical Device Center.

‘When you get it right, when that light bulb comes on, this system is being activated.

‘By stimulating the vagus nerve during the learning process, we’re artificially releasing these chemicals to enhance those connections active during learning.’ 

‘We’re asking multidisciplinary teams of researchers to construct approaches that enable precise interaction with very small areas of the brain, without sacrificing signal resolution or introducing unacceptable latency into the N3 system,’ Emondi said.

DARPA says neural interfaces could ultimately allow for human-machine interactions with unmanned aerial vehicles, active cyber defense systems, or other Department of Defense technologies.

‘Smart systems will significantly impact how our troops operate in the future, and now is the time to be thinking about what human-machine teaming will actually look like and how it might be accomplished,’Emondi said.

‘If we put the best scientists on this problem, we will disrupt current neural interface approaches and open the door to practical, high-performance interfaces.’

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