DARPA Working on the Future Display – The One Without Displays

By Norbert Hildebrand
darpa cortical modem augmented reality

When we talk about wearables, especially about augmented and virtual reality glasses, we always think of discrete imagers that create the best possible result in such applications. Discussions about LCOS, DMD, LCD and OLED often comes down to resolution, frame rates and the like. Now DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is working on a new technology that avoids using discrete imagers all together.

When we look at an image, our eyes translate this into impulses transmitted to the brain by the optic nerve. The brain puts these impulses together into what we perceive as an image. Depending on the eyes of the viewer, these impulses vary and the resulting image in our brain differs based on the respective experience and visual conditioning. DARPA’s latest idea is to implant a “cortical modem” into the optic nerve to allow us to see an image that only exists in our mind.

Source: International Business Times

This approach was mainly derived from the idea to restore some vision to vision impaired soldiers. This approach seems so far fetched that it could come right out of a science fiction movie. However, DARPA has also worked on a neural interface to allow soldiers to control prosthetic limbs and seems to have some success with this approach.

Analyst Comment

I am sure that it will be many more years until a simple electronic implant will replace our then 8k+ home display center with high dynamic range and extended color range. However, this approach could lead to help vision impaired people to regain some form of vision. It could also create the ultimate in augmented reality smartglasses, without the glasses part of course. Form a military perspective this could be a very valid goal as well. In reality, my best guess is that both ideas will be considered and researched in detail. DARPA has a history of supporting new display technologies in the past, with field emission displays being one of them. – NH