As an avid reader of spy-fiction, I’ve always considered DARPA to be that mysterious agency that creates all the cool toys for the James Bonds of the world. It turns out that the “Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency” has had a hand in many technological items that we actually use on a daily basis. The internet, GPS, cloud computing and street-view maps like Google maps are just some of the cool things they have developed since their founding in 1958. Recently, they’ve started funding projects into some very Cool Tech that may have beneficial results for the blind.
DARPA has announced that they are funding research into the development of methods to record from large numbers of neurons simultaneously. This ability is required in order to be able to create interfaces that can communicate between the human brain and computers. Unlike Elon Musk’s and Facebook’s claims earlier this year to provide brain implants that will help us read each other’s thoughts, this project is actually taking place and is being funded by the US department of defense.
Several companies have already been chosen based on the technology they are providing for this research. Some of the ideas include extremely thin wires that cover a wide area of neurons to holographic microscopes that can communicate with thousands of neurons at once. These techniques will be used to help communicate back and forth with the brain in order to create technology that will eventually provide sensation to individuals with paralyzed limbs. Additionally, the same methods can be used to provide sight to someone who is blind through the use of cameras and a neural-interface.
This technology is still several years in the future and as mentioned is just now entering the research stage. But, seeing as how DARPA has helped create technology we now take for granted, it could be that within the next decade we will be using such interfaces to cure blindness, paralysis and sensory loss.
I still won’t be James Bond but, I’ll gladly use a neural-interface to help restore my sight!