Neural Lace: The Ultimate Wearable?



–>Wearables have been seen as a fad, but the term itself is very broad. Is an implant a wearable? Elon Musk has apparently conceived a new company called Neuralink to pursue “neural lace” technology. Musk hasn’t made a formal announcement, and it’s not clear what his plans are for the company, but back in June 2015, Nature Nanotechnology published an article about syringe-injectable electronics, mentioning “tight integration and low chronic immunoreactivity with several distinct regions of the brain.” However, it makes me pause to think that we might someday implant what has been fantastic science fiction. Neuralink has already hired some academics to work on the project.

Figure 1: (a) Schematic of the injectable probe implanted in the brain, and (b) of the microscopic interface of the microporous nanoelectric brain probe with neural circuit. (Source: Xie, Chong, et al. “Three-dimensional macroporous nanoelectronic networks as minimally invasive brain probes.” Nature materials 14.12 (2015): 1286-1292.)

Figure 1: (a) Schematic of the injectable probe implanted in the brain, and (b) of the microscopic interface of the microporous nanoelectric brain probe with neural circuit. (Source: Xie, Chong, et al. “Three-dimensional macroporous nanoelectronic networks as minimally invasive brain probes.” Nature materials 14.12 (2015): 1286-1292.)

The military could use something like neural lace to communicate without words. You see hand gestures used when they walk point in a jungle war film, maintaining silence but issuing commands that could be monitored by wearables that transmit to a command station. One of the challenges encountered in battle is constantly changing conditions. You can plan an overall strategy around a goal, but tactics have to be carried out on the ground with decision-making on the fly. In the Korean War, had MacArthur known as fact, backed up by electronically gathered data, that American troops were indeed getting nearly overrun every night by a confirmed number of DPRK troops, maybe that would have convinced him to withdraw earlier…or not. Data is only good if verifiably gathered, interpreted correctly, and believed. There are some interesting analyses on cia.gov library, including on one “Two Strategic Mistakes in Korea, 1950.” No amount of data or statistics can overcome arrogance, however.

Wearables can also measure vibrations and indicate if an explosion has occurred nearby to command posts. Add multiple points of this kind of this data to a lack of response and you have more information to make a life-saving decision to deploy medivacs to the area. Robotic exoskeletons count as wearables, right? They would be really useful for all kinds of tasks in the military, construction, or anything involving heavy lifting. Remember the scene in Aliens where Sigourney Weaver climbs into a Caterpillar P-50000 work loader to fight off the alien queen? The flexibility, power, and speed of the work loader as she used it to throw punches leveled the playing field. You can find out more about that in the Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual, complete with blueprints. It’s hard to believe that Aliens came out over 30 years ago, in 1986. People may think of wearables as a fitness band fad, but some technology started as a fad. Cameras in phones began as thumb-sized selfies. Cameras are now a critical tool for many phone apps. Digital watches were black plastic-strapped chunky wrist-jobs but still cool in the 70s. It’s rare to see someone with a regular watch these days. Ironically, if they have one, it might be a digital smartwatch that emulates an analog face. Were digital watches a fad, or a demonstration of miniaturization? Were digital watches a fad, or a demonstration of miniaturization? In any event, wearables are not going to go away. The wearables scene has included a wave of knockoffs along with the good ones, but people will always find new uses for wearable technology, never go away, but people will always find new uses for the technology, especially since “wearables” is such a broad category in the first place.

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