COLUMBUS, Ohio (May 20, 2019)—Battelle has for years successfully demonstrated brain-computer interface (BCI) projects—just look at NeuroLife®, which has enabled a quadriplegic man to move his hand again using his thoughts. Now, the government’s forward-thinking Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded a contract to a Battelle-led team that pushes researchers into the realm of what was once considered science fiction.
Imagine this: A soldier puts on a helmet and uses his or her thoughts alone to control multiple unmanned vehicles or a bomb disposal robot. That’s the basis for this effort for DARPA’s Next-Generation Non-Surgical Neurotechnology (N3) program. The N3 program seeks development of high-performance, bi-directional brain-machine interfaces for able-bodied service members. Most of the current BCI research, including Battelle’s NeuroLife technology, focuses on helping people with disabilities who must undergo invasive implant procedures, including brain surgery, to enable a BCI that can restore lost function. For the next BCI leap, in which the technology can be used by healthy military service members, it’s imperative to find lower-risk and less-invasive options.
It’s a path Battelle Senior Research Scientist Gaurav Sharma has already begun to navigate. Heavily involved for years with the NeuroLife project, Sharma began to develop ideas for non-surgical BCI options. The DARPA N3 program provides the opportunity to further develop them.