23 September 2008

Can You Hear Me Thinking Now? Thought Helmet

Mind to mind communication has been a staple of science fiction for many decades. But there are situations where being able to silently cue a partner or team member about something occurring outside his range of sight or hearing, might save lives. The US military is studying potential uses of a "thought helmet" in conjunction with its "networked battlefield" approach to combat.
Researchers have been working on other brain-computer interfaces, such as Emotiv Systems´ brain-wave headset for video games, which is expected to be available commercially next summer....The Army's version would of course be more sophisticated and reliable than the gaming headset. To make the thought helmet a feasible piece of equipment for soldiers, scientists need to combine advances in computing power together with our understanding of the human brain.

At the moment, the thought helmet concept consists of 128 sensors buried in a soldier´s helmet. Soldiers would need to think in clear, formulaic ways, which is similar to how they are already trained to talk. The key challenge to making the system work is a software system that can read an electroencephalogram (EEG) generated by the sensor data, and pick out when a soldier is thinking words, and what those words are.

Because the brain is a complex system and generates such large amounts of data, researchers must also make improvements in computing power. Soldiers will also have to be trained to think "loudly" to make it easier for the system to pick out their words from the brain´s background noise. Also, every individual´s EEG signals are a little different, so users and computers will have to be calibrated so that computers recognize each person´s unique mental pattern.

In early versions, recipients will most likely hear messages rendered by a robotic voice in their headphones. But the researchers also think it´s possible to render commands in the speaker´s own voice, as well as indicate the location of the speaker relative to the listener. _PO
Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of implanted brain electrode arrays, with wireless communication directly from brain/comp to brain/comp. The computer/transceiver apparatus would be "melded" to the skull and covered by skin and hair--giving the soldier's head a somewhat exaggerated roundness. Nano-antennae would be indistinguishable from the soldiers' hair, and would interface into protective helmets that would boost the signal for greater distances.

The soldiers' muscles and ligaments/tendons/bones would be augmented with carbon nano-tube reinforcement and strengthening. Sub-integumental conductive nano-sheeting would provide resistance to blunt force/penetrating trauma and would be designed to deflect electrical discharges (taser etc) and microwave weapon energies.

Such augmented soldiers when interfaced in squad-sized units, and provided with weapons such as these, rapid transport to anywhere in the world such as this, and a number of other force multipliers being developed, and a long range reconnaissance (in force) platoon might easily conquer any nation in the world (with the exception of a handful) in less than a day. Holding the place would be a different story, but in most situations simple extraction would probably suffice.

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Blogger Loren said...

Problem with direct interface is surgery, risk of complications from such surgery, and other issues they've found with electrodes in the brain causing scar tissue to form, among other things. I believe that external systems will be enough for most things. There's little that you'll need a direct plug in to do.

Tuesday, 23 September, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Yes, but things are changing. The need for better signal to noise will necessitate implanted electrode nano-arrays. The materials involved remain to be determined. Likewise the exact nature of the implanted A/D electronic interface and power supply . We live to solve problems.

Tuesday, 23 September, 2008  
Blogger Loren said...

Perhaps. I grew up with a cartoon called Exo-Squad, which you can find on Youtube if you like. They used a plug to interface with their mechs, and that cartoon is where I originally got on my ideas for mechs and power armor and stuff. And until Sankai put his Hybrid Assistive Limb into production, was how I thought I'd be running it, since I didn't think the master/slave systems currently in use would allow you to do enough.

One thing I had early on though, was someone explaining that the brain is pretty important, and hard to fix if you break something. Not wise to bother drilling holes in your skull if you can help it.

For a direct interface, I was thinking, it would do best to put the implants in lower nerves. If the surgeon screws up on the nerve in your arm, you're not going to be turned into a vegetable, like he might if he pushes an electrode too far into your brain. You've heard of the experiments with the monkeys that learned they didn't have to use the joysticks, right? If a monkey can learn it, a human can too. With some training, you cna learn to get to the USB drive plugged into your arm, and you don't have to have anything in your head. Easier to change the batteries too.

Similarly, how much bandwidth do I need for my suit? I'd imagine if I can generate a signal Sankai's sensors can pick up, I can make one without actually moving the muscle. Enough sensors, and you can run the suit, with enough extra functions to toggle your radio, NVGs, the bayonet on your wrist, etc.

It's true that I'm not planning on plugging in a wikipedia, but there's plenty of capability to do what I need done, and no reason to use something that will take surgery to do.

Tuesday, 23 September, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Yes. Even routine neurosurgery (or any invasive process) on humans makes me a little nervous. If you can do something non-invasively that is usually how it should be done.

The type of thing I am speculating about is for the future, after extensive improvements in materials, evolution in A/D and DSP for neural processing/interfacing, robotic neurosurgical techniques, and so on. The list is too long.

Wednesday, 24 September, 2008  

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