Thu Aug 29 13:40:39 EST 1991

In reply to the inquiry concerning "the cutting edge in mind-computer link
research" and sources for people interested in this kind of fiction...

As far as I know, there are several lines of research on the cutting edge:

1. Growing axons through computer chips--this is close to the ideal for
   a neural-machine interface.  The ideal is non-invasive.
2. The latest in "Virtual Reality"--creating an artificial sensory
   environment using devices you can wear: a helmet and gloves--like the
   Nintendo Power Glove.
3. Multi-dimensional analysis of neural data--trying to make sense of
   data from multiple related neural channels (think of each channel as
   a dimension and a "thought" as an n-dimensional curve or vector).  The
   analytical tools are just being developed.

My brother (who's working on a Ph.D. in Artificial Intellegence) and I have
been thinking about mind-machine interfaces since we were kids.  We've
decided that the ideal _realistic_ application area is "smart prosthetics",
both of the sensory and physical kind.  These machines would have two
requirements.  First, an interface with the user--any interface (muscular,
neural, voice, etc.) will do, as long as the person can control it and learn
to control it better.  Second, the prosthetic has to be smart--it must learn
from the user what to do.  This amounts to learning a personalized language.
The advantage of this type of prosthetic is that you only get better with it.

Anyone interested in collaborating?  We need mechanical and electrical
engineers, chip designers, neurophysiologists, knowledge engineers, and
computational neuroscients, just to mention a handful.


In the fictional world (for now) the genre is Cyberpunk, the prosthetics
are called Cyber-ware, some authors are Bruce Sterling and William Gibson.
Also, look in your local role-playing game store for the games Cyberpunk,
CyberSpace, and ShadowRun.  They are full of cyber-ware and neat ideas.

Tom Tcheng (T-TCHENG at UIUC.EDU)

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