U.S. Special Forces may soon have a strange and powerful new weapon in their arsenal: a pair of high-tech binoculars 10 times more powerful than anything available today, augmented by an alerting system that literally taps the wearer's prefrontal cortex to warn of furtive threats detected by the soldier's subconscious.via Wired
In a new effort dubbed "Luke's Binoculars" -- after the high-tech binoculars Luke Skywalker uses in Star Wars -- the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is setting out to create its own version of this science-fiction hardware. And while the Pentagon's R&D arm often focuses on technologies 20 years out, this new effort is dramatically different -- Darpa says it expects to have prototypes in the hands of soldiers in three years.
The most far-reaching component of the binocs has nothing to do with the optics: it's Darpa's aspirations to integrate EEG electrodes that monitor the wearer's neural signals, cueing soldiers to recognize targets faster than the unaided brain could on its own. The idea is that EEG can spot "neural signatures" for target detection before the conscious mind becomes aware of a potential threat or target.
That prefrontal cortex, he explains, allows the brain to pick up patterns quickly, but it also exercises a powerful impulse control, inhibiting false alarms. EEG would essentially allow the binoculars to bypass this inhibitory reaction and signal the wearer to a potential threat. In other words, like Spiderman's "spider sense," a soldier could be alerted to danger that his or her brain had sensed, but not yet had time to process.