DARPA’s Cybernetic Binoculars Tap Soldiers’ Brains To Spot Threats
NEAL UNGERLEIDER | SEPTEMBER 21, 2012
The U.S. Army and DARPA have concluded field tests on next-generation binocular replacements that read human brain signals and have a 91% threat detection success rate. They might just help you control your car with your thoughts too (seriously).
Binoculars on the battlefield are fine, as long as soldiers know what they’re looking at. But when a target’s not so clear or, say, a shopkeeper with a broom could easily be mistaken for an insurgent with an RPG, the eyes–even the conscious, rational mind–might not be the best tool for threat-spotting and quick reaction.
So a new system from military think tank DARPA is instead going straight to soldiers’ brainwaves to spot real threats–from far away, or amid a crowded landscape.
The concept might sound familiar to science fiction readers: Augmenting human soldiers with brainwave-reading computers. The Cognitive Technology Threat Warning System (CT2WS) is a threat detection system for troops in the field that simultaneously scans warfighters’ brainwaves while a camera surveys the area. The binocular replacement system detects a specific kind of brainwave (the P300, which is involved in stimulus evaluation and categorization), combines that info with a camera feed, and processes it all through an algorithm in near-real time to feed back an almost-instant threat assessment. (Think: every cyborg POV shot in every Terminator movie ever made.) Sounds pretty out there, but testing indicates 91% of enemy targets were identified in the field, compared with the 47% spotted by U.S. warfighters in action today who aren’t using the new system.