Southern Methodist University has announced that DARPA will be funding its new Neurophotonics Research Center to the tune of $5.6 million. Researchers at the center will focus on creating a fiber optic communication system which can act as an interface between the peripheral nervous system and prostheses. In addition to giving users more natural control over their prosthetic limbs, the communication system would be able to relay information from sensors on the prosthesis, allowing users to feel pressure and temperature just like they could with their natural limbs.
From the announcement:
Currently available prosthetic devices commonly rely on cables to connect them to other parts of the body for operation — for example, requiring an amputee to clench a healthy muscle in the chest to manipulate a prosthetic hand. The movement is typically deliberate, cumbersome, and far from lifelike.
The goal of the Neurophotonics Research Center is to develop a link compatible with living tissue that will connect powerful computer technologies to the human nervous system through hundreds or even thousands of sensors embedded in a single fiber.
Unlike experimental electronic nerve interfaces made of metal, fiber optic technology would not be rejected or destroyed by the body’s immune system.
Full story: Fiber optic interface to link robotic limbs, human brain…
(hat tip: Engadget)