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Very intelligent electronic binoculars to use brain activity

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June 21, 2008

Very intelligent electronic binoculars to use brain activity

Very intelligent electronic binoculars to use brain activity

June 22, 2008 One of the most interesting defence projects we’ve ever seen, is DARPA’s Cognitive Technology Threat Warning System program (CT2WS) - a panoramic day/night optical system that will use human brain activity to detect, analyze and alert foot-soldiers to possible threats. The first phase will result in a preliminary design for the Human-aided Optical Recognition/Notification of Elusive Threats (HORNET) system. HORNET will utilize a helmet equipped with electro-encephalogram electrodes placed on the scalp to monitor brain activity. The operator's neural responses to potential threats will train the system's algorithms, which will continue to be refined over time so that the warfighter is always presented with items of relevance to his mission (let’s hope it works better than a spam filter).

An academic and industrial consortium led by Northrop Grumman Corporation has been awarded the first phase of an advanced research contract to develop a panoramic day/night optical system that will utilize human brain activity to detect, analyze and alert foot-soldiers to possible threats.

Awarded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Cognitive Technology Threat Warning System program, or CT2WS, is part of the U.S. Department of Defense's effort to address a key mission need and represents a significant leap forward in technology from that available today.

The goal of the CT2WS program is to drive a breakthrough in soldier-portable visual threat warning devices. Once successfully developed, the intelligent neuro-optical system will provide the warfighter with an unprecedented capability to detect targets of interest at an extremely long range over a wide field of view. In Phase One of the program, the Northrop Grumman team plans to demonstrate the concept by building a breadboard system and complete a preliminary design for the company's Human-aided Optical Recognition/Notification of Elusive Threats (HORNET) system.

HORNET will utilize a custom helmet equipped with electro-encephalogram electrodes placed on the scalp to record the user's continuous electrical brain activity. The operator's neural responses to the presence or absence of potential threats will train the system's algorithms, which will continue to be refined over time so that the warfighter is always presented with items of relevance to his mission.

"Northrop Grumman's HORNET system leverages the latest advances in real-time coupling of human brain activity with automated cognitive neural processing to provide superior target detection," says Michael House, Northrop Grumman's CT2WS program manager. "The system will maintain persistent surveillance in order to defeat an enemy's attempts to surprise through evasive move-stop-move tactics, giving the U.S. warfighter as much as a 20-minute advantage over his adversaries."

When deployed, HORNET will support a wide variety of military and homeland defense applications, including force protection, improvised explosive device (IED) defeat, border surveillance and applications now using aided target recognition.

Following the first 12-month, $6.7 million phase of the project, DARPA has the option to extend the contract for two additional phases to develop the subsystems and final handheld assemblies.

Fox News has the story, as does Slashdot, which sums up the story succinctly and why it is so fascinating: The binoculars will be built into a helmet, which will include EEG electrodes that will monitor the wearer's brain activity for patterns consistent with object identification/recognition. From what I can gather, the idea is that when you look at a far-off or partially obscured object without noticing it, your subconscious probably did notice it and tried, unsuccessfully, to identify it. The EEG in these binoculars would pick up on that kind of subconscious activity and draw the wearer's attention to the object in question. The goal is that these binoculars would be able to pick up on any object anywhere in the wearer's field of view, where a person can only pick up on things that he focuses both his eyes and his attention on. This delves into some very interesting territory: it would be an electronic device that uses human eyes to collect data, and even uses a human brain to partially process the data. Since it also passes its results back to the human providing the data and initial processing, it essentially adds a second processing loop in parallel to the wearer's visual system."

About the Author
Mike Hanlon After Editing or Managing over 50 print publications primarily in the role of a Magazine Doctor, Mike embraced the internet full-time in 1995 and became a "start-up all-rounder" – quite a few start-ups later, he founded Gizmag in 2002. Now he can write again.   All articles by Mike Hanlon
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