DARPA developing neural interface connected to your spine

17 Feb 2015

Robotic eye image via TC Morgan/Flickr

The US military’s advanced research division – DARPA – has revealed details of its ‘cortial modem’ which wants to turn the inside of the human eye into an advanced display powered by the spine.

Revealing details of its plans at an event called Biology is Technology (BiT) in the US, the organisation and its director Dr Arati Prabhakar said that their eventual goal is to an internal display system that would look as if you were wearing a Google Glass-style headset, but without any external technology.

According to H+, DARPA’s short term goals are to begin by creating a small device that would cost no more than US$10 of showing a basic digital display, similar to a digital clockface, through a direct interface with the visual cortex.

Future Human

The cortical modem as a concept however is still very much in the realms of being in concept mode with its current technology based off a field of neuroscience called optogenetics which, as scary as it sounds, requires the altering of a person’s DNA in their neurons to make it more easily manipulated by changes in light.

Do away with glasses entirely

So far, the cortial modem’s programme manager, Phillip Alvelda said, they have only tested the technology on animals with the example of a zebrafish given which has approximately 85,000 neurons in its brain.

Aside from uses that would have only been dreamed about in science fiction, DARPA believe it could have a number of potentially life-changing or everyday uses including returning sensory function to those without sight and, more expectedly, do away with the need for glasses to see objects in virtual reality or augmented reality.

The research centre has been finding itself in the news of late with its other recent technological developments including an advanced prosthetic arm with a sense of touch, a search engine for the ‘deep web’ and Atlas, its advanced bi-pedal robot.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic