Breakthroughs in innumerable fields of science seem to be happening everyday, and we are of the opinion that we are fast approaching a stage of critical mass, when each and every discovery or invention will spark off exponential others.
So while we might have just figured out how to block a “dumb gene”, defeat paralysis, read words from thoughts, develop a probabilistic and a photonic processor, retard cancer growth, create synthetic blood and spray-on self-replicating solar cells in the past few months, we’ve just hit another milestone – bringing feeling to artificial limbs.
Using a technology called neurophotonics, the US Department of Defense (specifically DARPA) and the Southern Methodist University (SMU) are in the process of developing prosthetics with two-way fiber optic communication channels that will communicate temperature and pressure information to the peripheral nerves they are attached to.
Still at its nascent stage, neurophotonics will one day soon not just lead to high-speed communication between the brain and artificial limbs, but also with other implanted or prosthetic augmentation. SMU’s Neurophotonics Research Centre believes that applications can range from chronic pain management and tremor control to the treatment of spinal cord injuries, and much more.
Dean Orsak, speaking from SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering, emphasizes the importance of the work: “science fiction writers have long imagined the day when the understanding and intuition of the human brain could be enhanced by the lightning speed of computing technologies. With this remarkable research initiative, we are truly beginning a journey into the future that will provide immeasurable benefits to humanity."