On April 16, the University of Florida held the world’s firstmind-controlled drone race, the latest signifier of this field’s rapid technological ascension. Although the drones only competed along a 10-yard course, the fact remains: These machines were commanded by human brainpower — or in technical terms, brain-computer interface.
The science behind BCI allows humans to manipulate machines with their thoughts by translating the brain’s electrical activity into code that drones can understand. The tool used to map and track this neuroelectric activity is called an electroencephalogram, or EEG, headset. These headsets are fine-tuned to identify the location and frequency of electrical activity linked with specific thoughts in the brain.
In practice, it’s not as complicated as it sounds. Let’s pretend you’re wearing the headset and your objective is to move a drone across a room using your imagination. When you are picturing this machine moving, neurons fire in specific sections of your brain. The EEG headset will recognize this activity and provide signals that can be translated into code. This code essentially “speaks” to the drone in its technical language and commands it how and where to move — like a remote control tells your television to change the channel, or turn on and off.
Now, take a moment to ponder what impact these developments could have on the modern battlefield. Once the technology is battle-ready, which may be soon, soldiers will have a significantly enhanced ability to execute the crucial split-second decisions that arise in combat. And it doesn’t have to stop at drones either: From tanks to planes to even weaponry, all could eventually be controlled by the thoughts of a specialized soldier.
If this sounds farfetched to you, be advised: DARPA has been developing mind-controlled drone technology for several years now, andthe Russians are doing the same. But until the global BCI arms race begins in earnest, the technology will have a far more immediate impact on injured veterans returning home from war.
Neuroelectric technology has already made serious headway in the medical field over the past few years, providing aid to people with physical or mental disabilities in the form of mind-controlled robots like thetelepresence robot. Using similar neuroelectric technology as the EEG headset, these machines are equipped with infrared sensors and cameras and move around based on the user’s brain waves. Scientists are also working to develop artificial limbsthat can be “told” to move by the brain like a normal arm or leg would, an ideal tool for amputees or people with limited range of mobility.
Considering the possibilities this expanding field presents, both on and off the battlefield, it’s difficult to imagine it experiencing any dwindling support. And with governments and medical entities lining up to fund the next big thing in neuroelectric technology, we have plenty of reasons to believe the wait won’t be long.
In a scathing letter, a top Navy legal official on Sunday expressed "grave ethical concerns" over revelations that government prosecutors used tracking software in emails to defense lawyers in ongoing cases involving two Navy SEALs in San Diego.
The letter, written by David G. Wilson, Chief of Staff of the Navy's Defense Service Offices, requested a response by Tuesday from the Chief of the Navy's regional law offices detailing exactly what type of software was used and what it could do, who authorized it, and what controls were put in place to limit its spread on government networks.
"As our clients learn about these extraordinary events in the media, we are left unarmed with any facts to answer their understandable concerns about our ability to secure the information they must trust us to maintain. This situation has become untenable," Wilson wrote in the letter, which was obtained by Task & Purpose on Monday.
Rebekah "Moani" Daniel and her husband Walter Daniel. (Walter Daniel/Luvera Law Firm)
The Supreme Court on Monday denied a petition to hear a wrongful death case involving the controversial Feres Doctrine — a major blow to advocates seeking to undo the 69-year-old legal rule that bars U.S. service members and their families from suing the government for injury or death deemed to have been brought on by military service.
FORT IRWIN, California -- Anyone who's been here has seen it: the field of brightly painted boulders surrounding a small mountain of rocks that symbolizes unit pride at the Army's National Training Center.
For nearly four decades, combat units have painted their insignias on boulders near the road into this post. It's known as Painted Rocks.