British company ARM, which was acquired by SoftBank in 2016, is mostly known for its line of low-power processor designs used in many smartphones and tablets. Now, however, the the company has announced a new partnership with the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering at the University of Washington, in order to develop implantable, bio-medical chips.
This basically means that ARM is developing chips that go in your brain, providing an interface between computers and our biological control centers. This will probably be used for next-generation prosthetics, such as mind-controlled arms of hands. However, the current issue, as Engadget notes, is having sensory feeling on these prosthetics. The challenge is adding artificial nerves to the prosthetics in order that the brain chip can "feel" what it is touching, so it can pick things up or kick something as much like "the real thing" as possible.
ARM will be using its existing Cotez-M10 chips for this purpose, which is the smallest chip ARM makes. The US researchers, meanwhile, already have some "early prototype devices," Peter Ferguson, ARM's director of healthcare technologies, told the BBC. "The challenge is power consumption and the heat that generates. They needed something ultra-small, ultra-low power."
The researchers are currently working on a system which will allow patients with spinal cord injuries to control their bodies when they otherwise wouldn't be able to. This means the ARM chips need to act as an interface between the brain and the spinal cord. However, these signals are very complex and decoding them will take both the researchers and ARM time. But when it concludes, it will give these patients a much better quality of life.
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