Ultrathin, Rubbery Circuits Bring Us One Step Closer to Google Brain Implants

Illustration for article titled Ultrathin, Rubbery Circuits Bring Us One Step Closer to Google Brain Implants

A new kind of computer circuit printed on ultrathin rubber would make the perfect "brain wrapper," says its inventor. Usually computer circuits are etched on rigid, plastic boards, but University of Illinois researcher John Rogers has successfully placed circuits on a rubbery material that can bend and stretch. Many groups have been working on developing this technology, but Rogers is the first to demonstrate that his bendy circuits actually work. Rogers says the circuits could wrap around part or all of the brain, to monitor its electrical activity. Or — in future applications — to interface with your brain, perhaps using antennae to establish a wireless neural link to the internet so you can be Googling with your mind.

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Says Rogers:

We'd like to have an electric circuit that could wrap around part of the brain and detect signal patterns to predict the onset of seizure before it happens . . . You can't take a sheet of plastic and wrap a brain, you really need stretchability.

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For now, though, Rogers is focusing on just making the circuits work. He makes them by stretching a thin, rubbery material to 15 percent of its normal size, binds the circuits to it, and then snaps it back to its normal size. The circuits continue to work, and can also work if re-stretched or bent. Here's a video of how that looks under a microscope.


Another possible application for the technology is skintight, wearable computers. Sort of like PVC for the BSD set. Image via USA Today.

Stretchy Circuits [New Scientist]

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DISCUSSION

Corpore Metal

@Motivated:

1) Couldn't the neurons be stimulated by rTMS or something similar?

Or couldn't the replies just be sent through displays in your contact lenses?

2) & 3) Yes, there are problems with both methods. The least of which would be that MRI machines are giant hulking monsters.

Basically I'm positing enormous advances in remote brain imaging, data processing speeds, miniaturization and remote neural stimulation by magnetic fields.

The ideal would be a hat you just put on and it reads your brain and sends complex messages to it. I don't know if it's merely an engineering problem or just scientifically impossible.

But I'm just saying that for every attempt to hack the meat directly there is non-invasive fyborg solution lagging not far behind. Why take steroids to boost my strength when there's a perfectly good powered exoskeleton or forklift nearby? Why jam a soon to be obsolete PDA socket in my skull when my PDA can be made noninvasive and wearable?