In Brief

Darpa builds 'Google Glass' that plugs straight into your brain

New device could help restore sight to the blind and replace all current virtual reality technology

The US government's shadowy defence technology agency Darpa is working on a device that will be able to transmit images directly into a user's brain.

Researchers say that the proposed device, named a "cortical modem", will be the size of two small coins and will be able to send images directly to the human mind, bypassing the optical system altogether.

The ambition for the project is to create a working model that connects straight to the visual cortex which will be able to display images "something like an early LED digital clock", Humanity Plus magazine reports.

Researchers from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) spoke publically about the new technology for the first time last week at the Biology Is Technology conference in Silicon Valley. The long-term ambition is to create a device that can create high-definition images in the human brain.

The cortical modem project opens the possibility of one day being able to restore sight to people who can’t currently be treated, and could also come to replace external virtual reality and augmented reality displays, such as Google's Glass project or the Oculus Rift.

The research has so far been limited to animals, with studies attempting to create "real-time imaging" in the brains of zebrafish, The Register reports. However, the device is still a long way from being ready for human testing.

Darpa's Biological Technologies Office – the group behind the research – was founded in April last year to devise new technologies at the intersection of biology and physical science.

Darpa itself was set up by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1958 in order to develop cutting-edge technologies for the United States. Despite being part of the Pentagon, it operates independently from the US Defense Department's main military research division, Engaget notes. This provides the organisation with the freedom to develop its own projects in the fields of robotics, prosthetics, medicine and biotechnology.

Darpa’s innovations are thought to have led to the creation of the Internet, predator drones, stealth fighters and, more recently, speech recognition systems such as Siri. But it is often accused of developing sinister [4]"Dr Strangelovian" technologies or projects with no apparent application.

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