Documenting the Coming Singularity

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

US Army Invests in 'Thought Helmet' Technology for Voiceless Communication - September 22, 2008 by Lisa Zyga

In the future, soldiers may be communicating silently with sophisticated "thought helmets." The devices would harness a person´s brain waves and transmit them as radio waves, where they would be translated into words in the headphones of other soldiers.

The US Army has recently awarded a five-year $4 million contract to researchers from the University of California at Irvine (led by UCI´s Mike D´Zmura), Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Maryland to study the concept. It will likely be a decade or two before the thought helmet becomes a reality, but the rough technology is already under investigation. 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.

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