Maybe “Blade Runner” wasn't so far-fetched after all. The iconic science fiction movie is partly based on the idea that someday humans and machines will become one thanks to advances in bioengineering. That's closer to reality now that the U.S. government has announced it is researching technology that aims to create a neural connection between soldiers and computers.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as DARPA, last week announced a program called the Neural Engineering System Design, a plan that will ultimately work to develop a neural implant that connects humans to machines. It's the latest development in a field that already has led to robotic prosthetics that give humans limited control over movement and feeling.
Current implants connect 100 to 1,000 neurons at once, creating a web of noise that prohibits effective coordination. “Today's best brain-computer interface systems are like two supercomputers trying to talk to each other using an old 300-baud modem,” Philip Alvelda, project manager at DARPA, told the Guardian Wednesday. “Imagine what will become possible when we upgrade our tools to really open the channel between the human brain and modern electronics.”
DARPA is best known as a military research organization, meaning anything it develops could eventually be used on the battlefield. DARPA researchers are also at work on what appears to be the most advanced prosthetic arm ever created, a $25 million project that has already helped one amputee climb a rock wall.