At the recent Biology Is Technology (BiT) conference in Silicon Valley high-end researchers and investors were introduced to DARPA’s (Defense Research Project Agency) Biological Technologies Office (BTO). This new program office will explore futuristic ideas and projects intersecting biology and physical science.
Among other mind-boggling projects, the agency presented its concept of a cortical modem, a direct VR/AR display in the visual cortex of the brain.
Video from the semi-conspiratorial viewpoint:
This tiny implant, the size of two stacked nickels, plugged directly into the human brain, could restore vision to those with sight loss which cannot be treated by other means, and would enable to those with healthy sensory function a visual display of information in front of their eyes, without additional lenses.
As reported in Humanity+ magazine, the visual fidelity of such a display would be “something like an early LED digital clock”. That doesn’t sound as advanced technology, you might say, but it will certainly spur interest for further research and development in this field. It might lead to the development of devices which could fully integrate virtual reality of the known and the future VR and AR technology into one’s field of vision, kind of overlaying the image of the real and the virtual world. Additionally, such a technology would allow for not only visual access to information, but also their writing, or upload. Far-fetched predictions go as far as to envision these devices providing such enhanced individual with telepathic, even telekinetic powers.
The man behind the original research project is Dr Karl Deisseroth, neuroscientist and a leading authority in optogenetics, the newly-emerging field of neuroscience which uses light to monitor and manipulate genetically modified neurons in living tissue of mammals. In recent years, researchers, like Dr Deisseroth, were able to modulate brain activity by turning selective neurons on and off, in order to study neurological activity and neural connectivity patterns inside the brain.
Mounting cortical modem in the human brain would, of course, require some tinkering with person’s neurons, and that may sound terrifying, but any kind of brain surgery does.Evens so, once this technology becomes ready for humans use, there will certainly be no lack of volunteers.
However, there is a lighter version of enhanced vision known as Google lenses, and Innovega iOptic augmented reality lenses, which are also promising to become compact light-weight VR/AR devices with a broad angle interfaces that float in front of our eyes.