These days, it seems you're nobody if you're not working on a way to merge machines with the human brain. Earlier this year, both Facebook and perpetual moonshot-enthusiast Elon Musk announced plans for brain-computer interfaces that could allow us to read the thoughts of others and improve our capacity for learning. Today, the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency announced plans to spend $US65 million ($85.5 million) developing advanced neural implants that connect our brains to computers in order to treat sensory deficits such as blindness.
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You may not want a robot landing the 737 you're a passenger on, but DARPA is celebrating the fact that its Aircrew Labour In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) landing the aircraft.
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".
"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.
How did a Massachusetts woman end up with two electrodes implanted into her brain? Why is the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency developing a controversial, cutting-edge brain chip technology that could one day treat everything from major depressive disorder to hand cramps? How did we get to deep brain stimulation and where do we go from here?
Back in June, after installing a new lithium-ion battery into its ape-inspired RoboSimian and plugging it into charge, researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory had their lunches cut short when the battery suddenly exploded in a spectacular fireball that completely torched the bot.
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.
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.
Bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics far more quickly than humans are discovering new ones. That's why a DARPA-funded research team is exploring a fascinating new way we might win the war against germs: not with drugs, but with predatory bacteria that sound like monsters from science fiction.
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.
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.
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.
Back when Alphabet was known as Google, the company bought Boston Dynamics, makers of the amazingly advanced robot named Atlas. At the time, Google promised that Boston Dynamics would stop taking military contracts, as it often did. But here's the open secret about Atlas: She can enlist in the US military at any time she wants.