Saturday, March 05, 2005

Mind Control

A good article on the BrainGate technology: a brain implant that allows you to control prosthetics (or play pong) just by thinking.

Magnetic resonance imaging allowed Friehs to plot in advance the region on Nagle's motor cortex most likely to provide readable arm-movement signals to the BrainGate. One revelation of BCI research has been that brain functions are highly distributed: Any spot within a given region can provide neural signals to operate a prosthetic.
The plasticity of the brain never ceases to amaze me.
Using a small pneumatic inserter, Friehs tapped in the tiny array - 100 electrodes, each just 1 millimeter long and 90 microns across at its base. Friehs closed Nagle's skull with titanium screws, leaving a tiny hole. Through that he threaded gold wires from the array to an external pedestal connector attached to Nagle's skull. Matthew Nagle was now part biological, and part silicon, platinum, and titanium. A 4-millimeter square silicon chip studded with 100 hair-thin microelectrodes is embedded in Nagle's primary motor cortex - the region of the brain responsible for controlling movement.
That is so Matrix. I love it. Of course they could use some work on the actual plug they are using. The picture of the device looks pretty lame. Could we get a couple of Apple engineers to donate a little time to help this fellow out? A small plug like the one they use in the Matrix or maybe a wireless version would be way better.
At a conference in 2002, Anthony Tether, the director of Darpa, envisioned the military outcome of BCI research. "Imagine 25 years from now where old guys like me put on a pair of glasses or a helmet and open our eyes," Tether said. "Somewhere there will be a robot that will open its eyes, and we will be able to see what the robot sees. We will be able to remotely look down on a cave and think to ourselves, 'Let's go down there and kick some butt.' And the robots will respond, controlled by our thoughts. Imagine a warrior with the intellect of a human and the immortality of a machine."
What the fuck? Who the hell looks at this kick ass technology and thinks what kind of ass can we kick with it? These ideas never even crossed my mind. Besides, why do you need this technology at all to do what he is envisioning? You should be able to do it with a joystick and a PC. Not sure how much the brain implant gains you here. But it is kind of scary that the Darpa guys are even thinking about this. But, if allowing these Darpa guys to have these crazy ideas (that I don't think will ever come to pass) is what it takes for the government to pay for this research, I guess that is a deal I can live with.
By 2003, Donoghue and Normann had tested the device, now called Brain­Gate, in 22 monkeys.
Not sure how smart that is. If the monkey's ever got a hold of DARPA's technology next thing you know we are battling a bunch of cranially enhanced primates for dominance of the earth. Has Planet of the Apes taught us nothing?

via Wired Magazine

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