Pentagon gadget lab DARPA has just earmarked $6.7 million to develop "brain-wave binoculars." Electrodes placed on the user's scalp record electrical brain activity in an attempt to use the cranium's unrivaled ability to spot patterns. With time, the binoculars can learn to identify objects that would normally pique the user's interest and direct them towards it. The binoculars are supposed to help soldiers out in the field by pointing out tanks or enemy combatants that they may have seen, but not noticed.
The technology is described as an example of "neuromorphic engineering"—hardware and software that tries to emulate human intelligence. Basically, the binoculars point out objects that our brains might have noticed, but not fully processed. The subconscious can detect multiple things at once, but the conscious mind can only focus on one thing at a time. By collecting data using human eyes and then passing the data back to the brain, the binoculars more or less add a second processing loop.
One possible problem: How to fine-tune it so that the binoculars don't just pick up on useless, distracting noise. Brains look for patterns in everything, and will sometimes find them even where they don't exist (i.e. Astrology). What if for every rocket launcher it did notice before us, it also pointed out how one specific mountain range in the distance looks like your mother-in-law's face? [Slashdot via Gizmag]