DARPA program aims to develop neural-digital connection

By Ryan Maass  |  Jan. 21, 2016 at 12:10 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- DARPA's new Neural Engineering System Design program aims to develop an improved implantable chip connecting the human brain to modern digital technology.

The program involves developing an interface that will help translate neural signals in the human brain to the binary code used by computers to communicate instructions. While there are methods in place linking brain activity with information technology, DARPA plans to make the translations more precise with a smaller device.

"Today's best brain-computer interface systems are like two supercomputers trying to talk to each other using an old 300-baud modem," NESD program manager Philip Alvelda said in a press release. "Imagine what will become possible when we upgrade our tools to really open the channel between the human brain and modern electronics."

Current neural interfaces approved for human use use 100 channels to aggregate thousands of neuron signals at a time, resulting in a noisy and imprecise translation. DARPA's NESD program aims to develop a system that can communicate clearly with up to one million neurons simultaneously.

NESD researchers will be tasked with developing advanced mathematical and neuro-computation techniques to transcode high-definition sensory information, in addition to new hardware equipment.

DARPA says the program will recruit a diverse roster of industry participants on a pre-competitive basis for manufacturing services and intellectual property, which will later transition into research and commercial application spaces.

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