Posts Tagged ‘cyborgs’

The U.S. military is researching ways for its troops can use their minds to remotely control androids who will take human soldiers’ place on the battlefield.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), the Pentagon’s hi-tech research arm, has earmarked $7million for research into the project, nicknamed Avatar.

The ultimate goal of the project sounds, bizarrely, much like the fantastical plot of the the film of the same name.

Science following fiction: In Avatar, pictured, human soldiers use mind control to inhabit genetically engineered proxiesScience following fiction: In Avatar, pictured, human soldiers use mind control to inhabit genetically engineered proxies

In the James Cameron movie, set far in the future, human soldiers use mind control to inhabit the bodies of human alien hybrids as they carry out a war against the inhabitants of a distant world.

According to the Darpa’s 2013 budget: ‘The Avatar program will develop interfaces and algorithms to enable a soldier to effectively partner with a semi-autonomous bi-pedal machine and allow it to act as the soldier’s surrogate.’

The report, released this week and seen by wired.com, says the remote controlled androids will be capable of doing everything that a human soldier can.

They should be able to perform all the duties expected of a human soldier, including ‘room clearing, sentry control [and] combat casualty recovery,’ all via remote control.

The means in which this man-machine mind-meld are to be achieved are unclear, but Darpa’s description of the project notes ‘key advancements in telepresence and remote operation of a ground system’.

The agency has reportedly already funded successful attempts to control robots with thought – albeit using monkeys – raising the terrifying prospect that wars may in the future be fought by machine proxy.

The initiative seems like the next logical step in the U.S. military’s robotics and remote warfare research.

Remote-controlled drones have, controversially, been in use for some time, and have been a key, if sometimes clumsy, weapon in the U.S.’s operations against Islamic extremists.

At ground level, the agency has also investigated autonomous, lifelike robots, including headless humanoid Petman, and AlphaDog, a four legged machine designed to carry equipment.

Last week Darpa released a new video of AlphaDog and noted that they wanted the machine to interact with soldiers in a way similar to the relationship between a trained animal and its handler.

The Terminator

The Terminator: Real cyborgs will be less scary – the researchers think that the technology could help people suffering from brain malfunctions such as Parkinson’s disease – by replacing damaged or malfunctioning tissue with chips

Faulty parts of living brains have been replaced by electronic chips, in an astonishing and controversial scientific breakthrough.

It’s a move that has been anticipated many times in science fiction, with creatures such as The Terminator, a ‘cyborg’ hybrid of flesh and machinery.

But now, researchers at Tel Aviv University have successfully created circuits that can replace motor functions – such as blinking – and implanted them into brains.

They hope the technology could in the future help people suffering from brain malfunctions such as Parkinson’s disease – by replacing damaged or malfunctioning tissue with chips that perform the same function.

‘Imagine there’s a small area in the brain that is malfunctioning, and imagine that we understand the architecture of this damaged area,’ said Professor Matti Mintz, a psychobiologist, speaking to the BBC.

‘So we try to replicate this part of the brain with electronics.’

Mintz has already successfully implanted a robotic cerebellum into the skull of a rodent with brain damage, restoring its capacity for movement.

However, anti-vivisection campaigners have described the experiments as ‘grotesque’.

‘Imagine there’s a small area in the brain that is malfunctioning, and imagine that we understand how it works. We try to replicate this part of the brain with electronics,’ said Professor Mintz

The cerebellum is responsible for co-ordinating movement, says Mintz.

When wired to the brain, his ‘robo-cerebellum’ receives, interprets, and transmits sensory information from the brain stem, facilitating communication between the brain and the body.

To test this robotic interface between body and brain, the researchers taught a brain-damaged rat to blink whenever they sounded a particular tone.

The rat could only perform the behavior when its robotic cerebellum was functional.

According to the researcher, the chip is designed to mimic natural neuronal activity.

‘It’s a proof of the concept that we can record information from the brain, analyze it in a way similar to the biological network, and then return it to the brain,’ says Prof. Mintz, who recently presented his research at the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence meeting in Cambridge, UK.

In the future, this robo-cerebellum could lead to electronic implants that replace damaged tissues in the human brain.

‘This type of research raises enormous ethical concerns, let alone the poor animals whose lives are wasted on dubious and ego-driven experiments,’ Jan Creamer, CEO of the National Anti-Vivisection Society, in an interview with the BBC.

JP