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DARPA Wants to Develop Brain-Translating Device

The federal government really does want to read your mind.
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The federal government wants to read your mind.

The Pentagon's research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), on Tuesday announced a new program aimed at developing an implantable neural interface that would translate signals from the brain into something computers can understand.

"Today’s best brain-computer interface systems are like two supercomputers trying to talk to each other using an old 300-baud modem," Phillip Alvelda, manager for DARPA's Neural Engineering System Design program, said in a statement.

"Imagine what will become possible when we upgrade our tools to really open the channel between the human brain and modern electronics."

One day, DARPA hopes to use the technology to interpret visual and auditory signals from the brain using an implantable device that is around one cubic centimeter in size.

Related: Wishful Thinking: Can Scientists Really Read Your Brain?

Plenty of researchers have tried to interpret signals from the brain, with only minimal levels of success. As DARPA noted, current interfaces use a maximum of 100 channels, each one trying to aggregate the noise from tens of thousands of neurons.

To reach the level of clarity DARPA wants, there will have to be "breakthroughs across numerous disciplines including neuroscience, synthetic biology, low-power electronics, photonics, medical device packaging and manufacturing, systems engineering, and clinical testing" ... meaning the technology isn't coming anytime soon.