back to article Uncle Sam to blow millions on mind-control weapon tech that can be fitted without surgery

DARPA, the US military's boffinry nerve center, is trying to fulfill the science-fiction dream of developing non-surgical brain-machine interfaces so soldiers can comfortably control weapon systems with their minds. On Tuesday, it announced funding for six teams at the Battelle Memorial Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, …

  1. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Firefox

    No, not the browser.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firefox_(film)

    1. LeahroyNake Bronze badge

      Re: Firefox

      No, you must think in Russian!

    2. Voidstorm
      Thumb Up

      Re: Firefox

      Also Macross ;)

      1. seven of five

        Re: Firefox

        I´ll take a Phoenix Hawk, no matter what Harmony Gold say. LAM, if possible.

        1. IT's getting kinda boring

          Re: Firefox

          Ahh - you meant to say VF-1S. Or StarScream if you're a Transformer's fan (if you take the Bandai version). After all, it was a VF-1S before Harmony Gold got a hold of it. ;)

          I'd go for the Crusader (which I think was based on the VF-1A Armoured Valkyrie).

          Whatever your take, those designs are amazing!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Firefox

            I believe you mean Jetfire (aka Skyfire) not Starscream. Although the two were friends back on Cybertron so I can see why you might be confused.

            Aside: Why is it I can remember all that stupid trivia about cartoon characters from over 30 years ago but I can't remember the names of some of my coworkers whom I see every day?

        2. Great Bu

          Re: Firefox

          I think you meant "I will take a Marauder". Phoenix Hawk LAM's are made of tin foil......

          1. seven of five

            Re: Firefox

            Hey, eight tons (and two more heat sinks) on the PHX - remember the LAM are heavier than their regular counterparts. And while the Marauder is pretty damn cool as well, I need something with hands, got some scores to settle ;)

            1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: Firefox

              And while the Marauder is pretty damn cool

              ObCrossGenre

              Personally, I prefer the MadCat II. Insta-kill of light Mechs at nice long ranges :-) *And* it has the word 'Cat' in the Mech title. What's not to like?

  2. Roger Greenwood
    Coat

    "..then put the tool aside when the mission is complete" said the headset.

    Well someone had to . . .

  3. Chris G Silver badge

    Thinking too much not allowed

    "I hate that bloody sarn't major......ooops!"

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Thinking too much not allowed

      Considering the real time feedback these systems will have, hacking them could be unpleasant for the operator.

    2. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Thinking too much not allowed

      Or worse, "Frag him!"

      This tech reminds me of the sci-fi story where a frustrated crewman told his ship's AI to go to hell, then had to talk the AI out of actually setting a course. Enabling faster reaction times on the battlefield could get quite messy.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Thinking too much not allowed

      Or perhaps the person who has the "helmet" and is in control of some missiles gets the news that his/her significant other is having an affair and thoughts of blowing the both of them up?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What happens when you suddenly wonder if you left your door unlocked or the stove on at home? Maybe you watched a film last night where 50% of the universes population get sapped out of existence, this won't end well.

    1. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
      Unhappy

      The same sort of mess as when you suddenly think that you need to scratch your arse.

      1. Teiwaz Silver badge

        The same sort of mess as when you suddenly think that you need to scratch your arse.

        The Military will have to set up a laser that can scratch your arse from space just in case...

        - early Family Guy joke

        1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
          Coat

          They have those...?!?!

  5. Blockchain commentard Silver badge

    Enemy launch a dirty nuke (doesn't need to be big), the EMP burst fries the skullcaps. Soldiers left with their M15 to fight with but haven't been trained to use old, manual technology. Whoops....

    1. Cxwf

      Last I heard, brain interfaces like this were very cool for disabled people who couldn’t use the standard interfaces, but for anyone else, the standard interfaces were still faster and more precise. Has that changed?

      Until it does, I have to assume this would be a narrow tool for very specific tasks, and not replacing all of their previous weapons.

      1. The Mole

        The whole point is to invest in the research to make it change. Even if it doesn't reach military quality hopefully the side-effect of the research will be an improvement for disabled people.

      2. Fungus Bob Silver badge

        Muscle contractions will be a problem. the electrical impulses from clenching one's jaw or blinking eyes is indistinguishable from signals caused by brain activity (at least for now).

    2. Mike Moyle Silver badge

      "Enemy launch a dirty nuke (doesn't need to be big), the EMP burst fries the skullcaps. Soldiers left with their M15 to fight with but haven't been trained to use old, manual technology. Whoops...."

      Probably not in the immediate future, at least. Last I recall hearing, "Starship Troopers" was still on the required reading list @ U.S military academies, in which a good chunk of chapter 5 is taken up with a discussion on why the armored Mobile Infantry troops train with knives, sticks, rifles and other "obsolete" weapons.

  6. Rich 11 Silver badge

    FTFY

    A non-invasive approach would be, for instance, skull-cap-like wearable devices that can be easily attached and detached from the jarhead.

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: FTFY

      "...skull-cap-like wearable devices that can be easily attached and detached from the jarhead.

      "

      Threaded?

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: FTFY

        Threaded?

        Nah - flooring nails will do. Plenty of bone to attach them to :-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: FTFY

      While it's invasive, a crayon-shaped object would allow Marines to easily attach them

  7. Christoph Silver badge

    This year: The systems will be at most minimally invasive. And the recipient soldiers will all be volunteers.

    Next year: Well, the new systems are just slightly more invasive. We need volunteers - you, you and you.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      To complete the circuit we need to implant a positive terminal in the skull, the negative will be inserted,.........

    2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      Terminator

      Why am I reading that in Cave Johnson's voice?

  8. tony2heads
    Stop

    Mood control

    Maybe bring on the 'red mist' rage or the berzerker blood-lust.

    Please no

    1. Mog_X

      Re: Mood control

      World Eaters Space Marines with the Butcher's Nails implants?

      Blood for the Blood God!

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Mood control

      Black Mirror - Men Against Fire.

      Someone at The Pentagon probably saw it and said they wanted one of those.

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Mood control

        I was just about to mention Black Mirror too

    3. -teacup ordinance
      Mushroom

      Re: Mood control

      ...already got those built in...

      STAEDERT:

      "...What do we have that's bigger than 240? "

  9. DerekCurrie Bronze badge
    Devil

    ...Making Coward Remote Murder All The More Quick And Easy!

    "...in the future they might put on a headset containing a neural interface, use the technology however it’s needed, then put the tool aside when the mission is complete.”

    My species is insane and will manage to kill itself off if it doesn't overcome its self-loathing mental health issue. That's my point of view as I watch the drive of proxy soldier devices controlled from afar continue apace. I wish we'd all grow up and make sense. Apparently, that's foolish optimism.

    1. holmegm

      Re: ...Making Coward Remote Murder All The More Quick And Easy!

      I know, right? Fools!

      We should find a way to *make* them grow up and make sense!!!

  10. TseTT
    Devil

    It's old hat...

    The Daleks have been doing it for years..

  11. Arthur the cat Silver badge
    Trollface

    Interfacing to squaddies' minds

    Presumably using DER encoding?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What could possibly go wro........

    *BOOM*

  13. Howard Hanek Bronze badge
    Pint

    Suppositions

    Predicated upon the supposition that everyone HAS a functioning mind to control. I foresee it will fail with a sizable portion of the populace. Take the people who work at any DMV for instance.....

    1. Myvekk

      Re: Suppositions

      If they weren't brain dead when they started, after dealing with enough members of the 'general public', they will be.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Primarily able-bodied

    DARPA wants the military’s “primarily able-bodied population” to use this forthcoming non-invasive technology. . . .

    . . . . . . to render the opposition primarily disabled and post-living.

    We really do need to grow the fuck up.

    1. Kiwi Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: Primarily able-bodied

      Well... When they get this tech, inevetibly it'll be released and the enemy will then have it.

      What remains is to disable the real weapons and run only simulations between the two sides.

      We can forgo the whole 'death chamber' and computers determining who 'died' in simulated battle therefore must be killed IRL

      1. Myvekk

        Re: Primarily able-bodied

        I remember that episode!

  15. I.Geller Bronze badge

    I wouldn't giggle if I were you. Obviously, these grants are just a cover for something important, clearly not a mind reader. Too much money. Usually, in such cases, the essence is mentioned briefly and vaguely, as something insignificant.

  16. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Sleepers

    What happens when the soldier falls asleep at his post and starts dreaming?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sleepers

      Better hope he doesn't dream of just killing everybody and being done with it all :-).

      Perhaps not such a bad idea considering how humans are doing so far.. a fresh start may not be so bad.

    2. Fungus Bob Silver badge

      Re: Sleepers

      The mental image of an anti-tank weapon system masturbating is quite disturbing.....

  17. Great Bu

    Shadowrun lives.....

    Deckers and Riggers apply within....

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Shadowrun lives.....

      Deckers and Riggers apply within..

      As with most game systems, I'd rather be a mage or shaman..

  18. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    Boffin

    Analogy time

    I want a hard drive that I can use next to my computer without a dedicated interface. It will listen to signals radiating from the circuits, process it with AI, know what the computer wants, then beam back responses into the circuits.

    Now do that for a fully 3D non-standardized object like a brain.

    1. SMITCH79

      Re: Analogy time

      "Now do that for a fully 3D non-standardized object like a brain"

      Yup, sounds like a boondoggle.

  19. DougS Silver badge

    Is mind control a good thing if people aren't in control of their minds?

    Pretty much everyone has random thoughts at times that aren't desireable...maybe you are driving and idly wonder "what if I crossed the centerline in front of that huge truck?" You don't have any real intention to do so, and you never would, but your mind wanders to that thought for a split second.

    Unless there is a population of people who NEVER have such brief wandering thoughts, hooking them up to something that can read their thoughts and use them to control weapons fire in a split second would be a REALLY bad idea.

  20. justanotherguynamedtony

    Future scientist visiting the ruins of earth...

    My poor Krell\b\b\b\b\b Humans. After a million years of shining sanity\b\b\b\b\b\b mediocrity, they could hardly have understood what power was destroying them.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Future scientist visiting the ruins of earth...

      have understood what power was destroying them

      Or, as in the Azimov short story - "silly asses".

  21. Kernel Silver badge

    "allow a blind person to see using the eyes of someone sighted, by reading the sighted person's brainwaves as they look around, and wirelessly stimulating neurons in the blind subject's brain to project the sighted person's view into their mind. "

    The beginning of the evolution of what will eventually become the Babelfish! - now we know how it came about.

  22. Loatesy

    "For example, Rice University is working on a system that will hopefully allow a blind person to see using the eyes of someone sighted"

    Oh this is a bad idea. The human brain has a nasty habit of pointing the eyes to anything of interest, without any input from the consciousness. I don't want anybody else knowing what my subconscious is REALLY wanting to look at . . cue sexual discrimination lawsuits.

  23. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

    Anybody remember...

    the monster from Forbidden Planet?

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