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DARPA is helping five groups create neural interfaces for our brains

DARPA is helping five groups create neural interfaces for our brains
From Engadget - July 10, 2017

The goal of the NESD program is to develop "an implantable system able to provide precision communication between the brain and the digital world," according to a DARPA release. Also known as "wetware", these brain-computer interfaces would effectively convert the chemical and electrical signals from the brain into machine readable data, and vice versa. Ultimately, the program's operators hope that neural interfaces will be able to communicate with up to 100 million neurons in parallel (though still a far cry from the 86 billion that our brains use in total).

Phase I of the program will center around developing the basic hardware and software needed to actually interface with the brain and should take about a year. Phase II will refine and miniaturize that technology as well as begin basic studies ahead of seeking out FDA approval.

The team from Columbia is focusing on the visual cortex and is looking to develop "a non-penetrating bioelectric interface" that could eventually enable computers to see what we see -- or potentially allow human brains to tap directly into video feeds.

The team from the Seeing and Hearing Foundation is also focusing on the visual cortex. They are working on a camera-based, external artificial retina worn over the eye's like Geordi LaForge's visor that would effectively "see" for the blind. Similarly, the team from the JBP lab are developing "modified neurons capable of bioluminescence and responsive to optogenetic stimulation communicate with an all-optical prosthesis for the visual cortex." Basically, again, a giant artificial eye that plugs directly into your brain's vision sensor. Finally, you will actually have eyes in the back of your head.

The Paradromics team is taking a slightly different tact. They are developing a Strange Days-style neural interface that will use "arrays of penetrating microwire electrodes" to record and stimulate neurons. Eventually the team wants to develop an implantable device that can help stroke victims relearn to speak.

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