This story is from the category The Brain
Date posted: 10/04/2005
A patent granted to Sony Entertainment for a device for transmitting sensory data directly into the human brain, may sound exciting, but will likely lead to stifled growth for neuroprosthetics.
The technique suggested in the patent is entirely non-invasive. It describes a device that fires pulses of ultrasound at the head to modify firing patterns in targeted parts of the brain, creating "sensory experiences" ranging from moving images to tastes and sounds. This could give blind or deaf people the chance to see or hear, the patent claims.
While brain implants are becoming increasingly sophisticated, the only non-invasive ways of manipulating the brain remain crude. A technique known as transcranial magnetic stimulation can activate nerves by using rapidly changing magnetic fields to induce currents in brain tissue. However, magnetic fields cannot be finely focused on small groups of brain cells, whereas ultrasound can.
If the method described by Sony really does work, it could have all sorts of uses in research and medicine, even if it is not capable of evoking sensory experiences detailed enough for the entertainment purposes envisaged in the patent.
?This was a prophetic invention. It was based on an inspiration that this may someday be the direction technology takes us?
Unfortunately, the patent is for a method that is theoretical in nature only, Sony have no working prototype, and the move to patent BMIs ? Brain Machine Interfaces ? could very easily stifle work already being carried out byy other groups on creating such things. Perhaps Sony themselves said it best:
Elizabeth Boukis, spokeswoman for Sony Electronics, says the work is speculative. "There were not any experiments done," she says. "This particular patent was a prophetic invention. It was based on an inspiration that this may someday be the direction that technology will take us."
See the full Story via external site: www.newscientist.com
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