Pentagon’s research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), is taking big initiatives to bringing us a step closer in making cybernetic organisms a reality as U.S. military invests up to $60 million on the development of implants that could connect the human brain and computers.
The Neural Engineering System Design (NESD) is DARPA’s new program that aims to develop a cubic centimeter-sized implant for humans to transmit brain neurons as electronic signals that computers can understand. They consider the result of the currently used neural interface while aggregating hundreds of thousands of neurons through just 100 channels as “noisy and imprecise.” NESD wants to “develop systems that can communicate clearly and individually with any of up to one million neurons in a given region of the brain.”
According to NESD’s press release, the program “stands to dramatically enhance research capabilities in neurotechnology and provide foundation for new therapies.” This would include potential applications for devices that would aid individuals with aural and visual impairment like injured veterans.
In a separate interview with CNN, a DARPA spokesperson said that it was not intended for military applications, although some experts could envision its game-changing potential especially in the field of wearable robotics. With initiatives like TALOS (or Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit) overseen by U.S. Special Operations Command, some could easily imagine the possibility of deploying an armored exoskeleton upgraded or controlled with a neural implant in combat for superior communications and visibility.
However, before the implants can be made possible, DARPA has acknowledged that they still need to work with experts from different fields and require several breakthroughs in different fields “such as neuroscience, synthetic biology, low-power electronics, photonics, medical device packaging and manufacturing, systems engineering, and clinical testing.”