Tagged With darpa

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If the brain is just a bunch of wires and circuits, it stands to reason that those components can simply be re-wired in order to create a better, smarter us. At least, that's the theory behind a new project from the military's secretive DARPA research branch announced on Wednesday, which aims to enhance human cognitive ability by activating what's known as "synaptic plasticity".

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"It sounds impossible but it's closer than you may realise," Facebook's Regina Dugan recently told audience members at the F8 developer conference. Dugan was referring to the social network's plans to read users' thoughts. Just in time to inject some practical considerations into that terrifying scenario, researchers have proposed four new human rights to protect our minds from those who might have the worst intentions.

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DARPA, the agency that helped invent things like email in the early 1970s and the internet itself in the late 1960s, just launched a podcast. Podcasts have been around since the 2000s, but better late than never, I guess.

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After losing his left arm to cancer in 2008, Jonny Matheny's life changed radically. The self-styled West Virginia hillbilly, formerly a retail bread sales and delivery man, started travelling to medical research facilities around the country to volunteer as a test-subject for advanced prosthetics and experimental surgeries. Today, Matheny is something of a Model T for cyborgs, wielding one of the most advanced mind-controlled prosthetics ever built.

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When I asked Johnny Matheny if I could shake his hand, I was admittedly a little nervous. The soft-spoken Floridian lost his lower left arm to cancer eight years back. His new arm — an advanced, mind-controlled prosthetic developed by DARPA — can crush a human human skull like a child squeezing a mandarin.

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Producing drugs is usually a time-consuming process that requires several large factories, each handling a different step in the process. But for smaller on-demand batches, MIT has developed a portable pharmacy that's only about the size of a commercial-grade fridge and promises much faster turnarounds.

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Founded in 1958 to prevent technological surprises such as Sputnik, the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency funds projects that are both outside the box and off the wall. Although DARPA gave us the Internet and GPS, plenty of its blue-sky ideas have crashed back down to Earth. Here are ten of them.