For a long time, scientists have been trying to build technology that would allow humans to transport consciousness to alternate realities and offer mind control over objects. While the concept sounds like a piece of science fiction, multiple projects like mind-reading computers and thought-transfer interfaces have been in the works for quite some time.
Now, the US Military’s research division, DARPA, has developed a Next-Generation Non-Surgical Neurotechnology (N3 project) — to create “reliable neural interfaces without the need for surgery or implanted electrodes.”
The N3 Project, as explained by DARPA, is a “read and write” technology that implies a bi-directional pathway. It could be used by the military to control a bunch of drones together or upload sensory information to the human brain — causing individuals to feel pressure or see things that aren’t really there.
The latter is an actual project that is under development at Rice University — a DARPA funded recipient for N3. They are working on a system that will allow a blind person or anyone connected to the system to see the vision of another individual.
According to DARPA, the N3 tech can work in two ways: completely non-invasive and minutely invasive neural interfaces.
It uses apparatus like a helmet or diadem to transmit radio frequency waves that transfer data in and out of the brain in the form of ultrasound, light, RF, and magnetic field waves.
The completely non-invasive technique will also include algorithms to decode and encode the brain’s motor and cognitive signals, which can affect specific areas of the brain.
The goal behind non-invasive technology is to develop a closed system loop latency — the speed at which the entire system works transfers data in and out of the brain, i.e. 50 milliseconds. This time is actually less than the speed of an eye blink. The official document also mentions six degrees-of-freedom control of machines.
This method will require the subject to get a substance inside their bodies. It can either be done orally or through nasal spray or injections.
Unlike the completely invasive technique which affects certain areas of the brain, this method can target single neurons, connecting each of them individually. DARPA expects this method to achieve ten degrees of freedom.
The document also outlines the roadmap for testing this technology. The N3 project will take the first 12 months to establish such a bidirectional path first.
Later, the two methods will require 18 months each and include both animal and human testing.
While it remains to be seen where this research will lead us a decade or two later, or maybe even before that, as Elon Musk’s company Neuralink is also working on brain tech that can connect your brain to computers very soon.
DARPA’s N3 project will certainly create a deep impact on both military and civilian life if this project comes to fruition.