Soldiers barking orders at each other is so 20th Century task. The U.S. Army has just awarded a $4 million contract to begin developing “thought helmets” that would harness silent brain waves for secure communication among troops. Ultimately, the Army hopes the project will “lead to direct mental control of military systems by thought alone.”Improvements in computing power and a better understanding of how the brain works have made scientists busy hunting for the distinctive neural fingerprints that flash through a brain when a person is talking to himself. The Army’s initial goal is to capture those brain waves with incredibly sophisticated software that then translates the waves into audible radio messages for other troops in the field. It’d be a radio without a microphone.
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The five-year contract has been awarded last month to a coalition of scientists from the University of California at Irvine, Carnegie Mellon University, Arizona state university of U.S. and the University of Maryland, working under a grant from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), are seeking to “decode the activity in brain networks” so that a soldier could radio commands to one or many comrades by thinking of the message he wanted to relay and who should get it. The technology is transcranial pulsed ultrasound, which delivers high-frequency sound waves to specific regions of the brain. Under the influence of these sound waves, neurons send impulses to their targets, exerting control over them. On the battlefield, this has enormous implications. Using a controller, a soldier could release ultrasound pulses to stimulate different areas of the brain. Initially, the recipients would most likely hear transmissions rendered by a robotic voice via earphones. But scientists eventually hope to deliver a version in which commands are rendered in the speaker’s voice and indicate the speaker’s distance and direction from the listener.
There will be a software able to pinpoint the speech-related brain waves picked up by the 128-sensor array that ultimately will be installed inside a helmet. Those sensors detect the minute electrical charges generated by nerve pathways in the brain when thinking occurs. The sensors will generate an electroencephalogram —that scientists are studying to find those vital for communication.
These helmets will help the military to have efficient control and coordination of its soldiers, helping them to convey their commands easily keeping their plans and strategies secure, and enable them to give the right response to their opponents with integration.
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