You may remember the movie Firefox, where Clint Eastwoods’ character steals an advanced Russian jet fighter that he can partly control with his thoughts.
Well, it seems reality has caught up with Hollywood.
Arati Prabhakar, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, cited the breakthrough last week at the first annual Future of War conference.
Jan Scheuermann, a quadriplegic and pioneering patient for an experimental Pentagon robotics program, continues to break ground in freeing the mind from the body.
The 55-year-old mother of two in 2012 agreed to let surgeons implant electrodes on her brain to control a robotic arm. More recently, she flew an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter simulator using nothing but her thoughts, an official said.
“Instead of thinking about controlling a joystick, which is what our ace pilots do when they’re driving this thing, Jan’s thinking about controlling the airplane directly,” Prabhakar said. “For someone who’s never flown — she’s not a pilot in real life — she’s flying that simulator directly from her neural signaling.”
Prabhakar said the research is far from becoming reality. Even so, she acknowledged that it raises fundamental moral and ethical questions about the intersection of biology and robotics.
Geoffrey Ling, director of the biological technologies at DARPA and one of the lead scientists behind the project, said he was just as excited when he saw Scheuermann first control the robotic arm as he was when he watched the live television broadcast of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon.