DARPA’s Cortical Modem Aims To Make The Blind See

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — the Pentagon’s research arm — gave a pretty rousing presentation in Silicon Valley recently in which it touted its cortical modem project, an endeavor to harness the power of DNA and neurons to make heads-up Internet displays a part of natural biology.

Oh, and it also hopes to make the blind see again.

DARPA’s last game-changing innovation was its involvement in ARPANET, an early packet switching network which inspired the evolution of the modern-day Internet. The new device in development, which plugs into your brain and is called a cortical modem, promises to completely shift paradigms. In short, it’s all about putting something like Google Glass directly into the visual cortex, what the writers at CNET likened to “Terminator vision.”

Based on research by Dr. Karl Deisseroth, the proposed cortical modem could function as a direct neural interface by tapping straight into the visual cortex and augmenting reality, Humanity+ magazine reports. It was recently presented at a conference in Silicon Valley by Philip Alvelda from DARPA, which highlighted the research areas of the newly created Biological Technologies Office at DARPA.

“The cortical modem is a real world version of the science fiction neural interfaces envisioned by writers such as William Gibson and more recently Ramez Naam,” according to the publication.

“The implications of this project are astounding.”

Although the visual quality for any product based on this field of optogenetics in the near-future would be very limited, eventually, this new breakthrough which fuses together technology and biology may replace virtual reality entirely.

And if development is successful, the size of the end product will be about the equivalent of two stacked nickels, costing approximately $10 dollars. Since the device would allow both reading and writing of information, it would enable electronic telepathy, telekinesis and might even restore sight. But for now, the cortical modem is definitely still in the works and won’t be available for a long time.

There is one main catch, however. For the device to work, researchers would need to genetically alter the DNA in a person’s neurons.

The cortical modem has not yet been tested on any humans, and the health implications remain unknown.

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Jonah Bennett