DARPA funds a program so computers can read thoughts

DARPA hopes to create a device that will convert brain signals into digital data

In the future, computers may be able to read your thoughts through a connection with the brain. DARPA wants to create a device that could help make that happen.

The device, which will be the size of two stacked nickels, will translate information from a brain into digital signals for use on a computer. The device is being developed as part of a four-year, US$60 million research program funded by DARPA -- the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which operates under the aegis of the U.S. Department of Defense.

The program, called Neural Engineering System Design (NESD), is one of DARPA's many research programs that aims to bring brain-like intelligence to computers. The research program will cover neuroscience, low-power chips, photonics and medical devices.

DARPA hopes its device will open a faster channel for the brain and computer to communicate. The goal is to convert sensory information like sights and sounds that are stored in the brain to digital data -- or 1s and 0s -- more quickly than possible today.

The equipment used today for brain signals to interface with computers is extremely slow, much like supercomputers "trying to talk to each other using an old 300-baud modem,” DARPA said in a statement.

Some equipment available to gather data from the brain include EEG and MRI equipment. Neural headsets from companies like Emotiv claim to track moods, stress levels and movement. The devices have a limited set of channels through which to interface with the brain.

DARPA hopes its new device will communicate with neurons over millions of channels simultaneously. The result will be clearer signals, and more signals will help to better interpret data .

DARPA's programs sometime never materialize as planned. But technologies emerging from the research could help people with brain trauma or hearing or visual disabilities.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Agam Shah

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Mobile

Exec

Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?