5.02.2007

Pentagon wants to Merge Brain with Binoculars
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Cognitive Threat Assessment

Remember Luke Skywalker's 'binoculars' that he used to pan the horizon looking for R2-D2 in Star Wars IV right before he says "Boy, am I gonna get it?"

The Pentagon is starting an effort which will merge soldier's brains with visual devices - integrated at the frontal cortex, called "Luke's Binoculars."

Or we could add, reminiscent of the "Six Million Dollar" man and his enhanced vision, or Arnold Schwarzenegger's visual acuity as the Terminator in T 1,2,3.

The agency claims no scientific breakthrough is needed on the project -- formally called the Cognitive Technology Threat Warning System. Instead, Darpa hopes to integrate technologies that have been simmering in laboratories for years, ranging from flat-field, wide-angle optics, to the use of advanced electroencephalograms, or EEGs, to rapidly recognize brainwave signatures.

In March, Darpa held a meeting in Arlington, Virginia, for scientists and defense contractors who might participate in the project. According to the presentations from the meeting, the agency wants the binoculars to have a range of 1,000 to 10,000 meters, compared to the current generation, which can see out only 300 to 1,000 meters. Darpa also wants the binoculars to provide a 120-degree field of view and be able to spot moving vehicles as far as 10 kilometers away.

The most far-reaching component of the binocs has nothing to do with the optics: it's Darpa's aspirations to integrate EEG electrodes that monitor the wearer's neural signals, cueing soldiers to recognize targets faster than the unaided brain could on its own. The idea is that EEG can spot "neural signatures" for target detection before the conscious mind becomes aware of a potential threat or target.

Darpa's ambitions are grounded in solid research, says Dennis McBride, president of the Potomac Institute and an expert in the field. "This is all about target recognition and pattern recognition," says McBride, who previously worked for the Navy as an experimental psychologist and has consulted for Darpa. "It turns out that humans in particular have evolved over these many millions of years with a prominent prefrontal cortex."

Read the Whole Article
- Wired

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