Soldiers scanning the battlefield for threats may soon get a new tool: a brain-scanning set of binoculars that can pick up on a soldier’s unconscious recognition of a potential threat and bring it to his conscious attention. It’s just one of many ways DARPA and other military research groups are looking to have soldiers mind-meld with their machines and materiel, and as the BBC reports, it demonstrates how remarkably close we are to deploying mind-control on the battlefield.
A group of forward-thinking military scientists want to plug soldiers’ weapons directly into their brains, and this time DARPA is nowhere to be found. The Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of scientific thought, issued a report today on the applications of neuroscience in the military and law enforcement contexts. Discussed therein: new performance-enhancing designer drugs, brain stimulation to boost brain function, and weapons systems that plug directly into the brain.
The gadget world is full of neat eye-tracking interfaces, from an iPhone version to a fully functioning laptop. But these are all fairly pricey and complex, making them niche devices rather than widely adoptable tools. Now a Honduran teenager has an eye tracker that solves the problem: A $300 open-source kit meant for people with disabilities. It's called the Eyeboard.
The holy grail of prosthetics research is and has been a kind of “Luke Skywalker hand” interface--prosthetics that respond to stimulus from the brain and function just as the original appendage it is replacing. But ideally the prosthetic wouldn’t just respond to stimulus from the brain--it would also provide sensory stimulus to the brain. It would have a sense of touch. And in a paper published today in Nature, we see the groundwork for just such a breed of prostheses.
Brain-machine interfaces hold potential for a variety of ends, from helping the neurologically or physically disabled communicate and interact with their environments, to creating thought-controlled computers that augment the brain with computing power. A group of researchers at Columbia are turning that model on its ear, using brain power to augment computing tasks. Their device couples the human brain and computers to perform tasks neither could do as efficiently on their own.
Robots are a major part of the cultural fabric of Japan; they’re performing weddings, buying groceries and keeping people company. A team of researchers at the University of Tokyo is taking this robotic cultural immersion a step further — they’re making animal-robot hybrids. Sort of.
Plenty of human-gadget interfaces can let you control a robot or a computer with your mind. But these communications are command-based -- your PR2 still can't tell whether you're asking it for a beer to celebrate, or to drink away your sorrows. An EEG-based affective computing system allows you to communicate your emotions, adding a new layer to human-computer interactions.