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U.S. Army banks on developing mindreading tech for future field soldiers

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Nov 28, 2020, 7:10 PM EST

With technology advancing at light-speed these days, the U.S. Army is getting in on the sci-fi action by funding a far-out project to promote neuroscience research with their sights set on creating a mindreading system for soldiers to communicate with each other on the battlefield.

Think it's far-fetched? Not so fast. In an attempt to decipher the hidden language behind various brain signals in the human mind, our military is determined to explore the promise of this experimental project and its potential applications for futuristic warfare.

To jump-start the process, the Army Research Office (ARO) has pledged $6.25 million toward this telepathic endeavor over the next five years to try and shatter perceptions of the reality of a true cyborg infantryman.

According to C4ISRNET, this technology might take two decades to develop but the initiative is being taken very seriously. Currently, ARO neuroscientists announced that they have learned to decode and parse these brain-produced neural signals that orchestrate behavior from the remainder of the organ's output. Singling them out is not exactly true mindreading, but it's a vital breakthrough in sorting out the meaning and purpose of individual messages to allow computers to help interpret them.

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“Here we’re not only measuring signals, but we’re interpreting them,” ARO program manager Hamid Krim explained. “You can read anything you want; doesn’t mean that you understand it. The next step after that is to be able to understand it. The next step after that is to break it down into words so that ... you can synthesize in a sense, like you learn your vocabulary and your alphabet, then you are able to compose.

"At the end of the day, that is the original intent mainly: to have the computer actually being in a full duplex communication mode with the brain.”

By employing a special algorithm and complex mathematics, ARO researchers were able to label which brain signals worked for directing motion, or behavior-relevant signals, and then separate those signals from the other behavior-irrelevant messages.

Ultimately, scientists would hope for a system in which computers can deliver feedback to soldiers' brains based on their thoughts for corrective measures in life-threatening or dangerous situations. Stress, anxiety, and fatigue signals emitted by the brain are not always immediately recognized, and a battle-ready, human-machine interface might do wonders for effective tactical encounters.  

Credit:  Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

Silent communication between field soldiers would be the next logical step in developing this military mindreading system.  

"In a theater, you can have two people talking to each other without ... even whispering a word," Krim added. "So you and I are out there in the theater and we have to ... talk about something that we’re confronting. I basically talked to my computer — your computer can be in your pocket, it can be your mobile phone or whatever — and that computer talks to ... your teammate’s computer. And then his or her computer is going to talk to your teammate.”

In their extended testing regimen, researchers focused on the brain signals from a monkey repeatedly reaching for a ball to collect and compare sample brain signals. The technology is still in its infancy but it's a blossoming field that could bear telepathic fruit in the coming decades.

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