Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, commonly known as DARPA has always come up with amazing innovations turning science fiction into reality. This time it showcased its new technological innovation at the New America Foundation’s Future of War conference during which a quadriplegic woman named Jan Scheurmann, flew a F-35 Joint Strike Fighter using only her thoughts. Previously, this same woman took control of a robotic arm with her brain.
The woman is fifty five years old and a mother of two but paralyzed from neck down since 2003. During a volunteer program at University of Pittsburg, some miniature grids were in a specific region of her left motor cortex in the brain, responsible for controlling the right hand and arm movement.The algorithm designed by the scientist would link the patterns of her brain activity with her thoughts regarding certain arm movements. With this, she could move both prosthetic arms to great extent which was surprise for the scientists as normally only the right hand movement is controlled by the cortex. She could do high fives, feed herself and move objects around as well. In the following video one can see her feeding herself:
Taking into account her tolerance level to the brain implants and enthusiastic attitude, DARPA extended her participation in the project. Even though she has no experience of flying nor any formal previous knowledge, she performed remarkably and has been appreciated by DARPA for this feat.
“In fact,” Prabhakar noted, “for someone who’s never flown — she’s not a pilot in real life — she’s in there flying a simulator directly from neuro-signaling.” Director DARPA is positive on the revolutionary opportunities this program will create in the field of prosthetics and it will change the lives of quadriplegic patients. Not only will this, relying only on thoughts also remove the body limitations. But this raises ethical concerns as well which DARPA is trying to address.
“In doing that work, we can now see the future where we can free the brain from the limitations of the human body,” Prabhakar said at the New America Foundation forum. “We can only imagine amazing good things and amazing potentially bad things that are on the other side of that door.”