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DARPA Challenges Researchers to Link Human Brains With Computers


The United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, last week announced a new program that aims to build a connection between the human brain and the digital world.

To achieve the goals of the Neural Engineering System Design program, DARPA has invited proposals to design, build, demonstrate and validate a human-computer interface that can record from more than 1 million neurons and stimulate more than 100 thousand neurons in the brain in real time.

The interface must perform continuous, simultaneous full-duplex interaction with at least 1,000 neurons — initially in regions of the human auditory, visual, and somatosensory cortex.

Devices created for the NESD project might be used to compensate for sight or hearing deficits, DARPA suggested, as well as other possible applications.

DARPA will award up to US$60 million in funding, depending on the quality of proposals received, the successful achievement of milestones, and the availability of funds. Multiple awards are expected.

Innovation Challenge

DARPA is seeking innovative, not incremental, research proposals. A successful NESD device will leverage significant advances in disciplines including microelectronics, photonics, scalable neural encoding, and processing algorithms.

DARPA would like a single device measuring one cubic centimeter — the size of two nickels stacked — that can perform the read, write and full-duplex functions desired. It will consider designs that embody those capabilities separately in devices of that size.

The devices must be secure to prevent spoofing, tampering, or denial-of-service attacks. DARPA will help proposers work on security issues.

Ultimately, NESD’s aim is to develop a…

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