All posts by Daniel Davies

DARPA’s brain implants will give you access to downloadable content and read your mind

DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is working on a brain implant that can give the human brain immediate access to the digital world.

As part of DARPA’s Neural Engineering System Design (NESD) program, implantable neural interfaces will also serve as translators that convert the electrochemical language used by neurons in the brain into the ones and zeros that constitute the language of information technology.

“Today’s best brain-computer interface systems are like two supercomputers trying to talk to each other using an old 300-baud modem,” said NESD program manager, Phillip Alvelda. “Imagine what will become possible when we upgrade our tools to really open the channel between the human brain and modern electronics.”


DARPA imagine the implant will be used to inject sounds and images into the brain, but the immediate aim of the scheme is to provide unprecedented signals and data-transfer bandwidth between the human brain and the digital world.

To make this a reality, DARPA aims to recruit leading figures from disciplines such as neuroscience, synthetic biology, low-power electronics, photonics, medical device packaging and manufacturing, systems engineering, and clinical testing.

DARPA does already have some experience of inserting implants into human brains.


Last year, it was reported that the defence agency had started implanting computer chips into soldiers’ brain tissue, on their return from campaigns in Afghanistan and  Iraq, to help regulate the nervous system and to alleviate symptoms of a variety of conditions from post-traumatic stress disorder to arthritis.

However, current brain implants try to squeeze lots of information through a small number of channels, with each channel aggregating signals from tens of thousands of neurons at a time. The result is noisy and imprecise.

In contrast, the NESD program aims to develop systems that can communicate clearly and individually with any of up to one million neurons in a given region of the brain.

Factor reviews: Elliot Brown’s Canford watch

Elliot Brown describes its Canford watch as “quietly handsome, for those who don’t want their watch to shout too loudly” and as having “the elegance of a classic pilot’s watch but with broader shoulders”.

I would describe the Canford as a watch on steroids, or a watch for people who think a Hummer truck is a practical city car.

It’s big, brash and brutish, and I have to say I’m a fan.


Images courtesy of Elliot Brown

Like anyone or anything on steroids, the Canford is overly concerned with strength.

For instance, the watch’s case is made from solid marine grade stainless steel that’s pressure tested twice during construction, then placed in a water-filled pressure vessel at 200m. Both of the watch’s crowns have triple seals and aggressive knurling for maximum grip, but Elliot Brown insist their smoothed edges  “won’t wreck the cuff of your favourite shirt or wetsuit”. The Canford’s case is bolted down, not threaded, for maximum shock absorption.

Perhaps the best way I can describe the Canford is to say that it’s essentially the Land Rover of watches. While you might see a Land Rover on suburban roads, really it wants to be roaming in the wilderness. The Canford is the same.

While Elliot Brown wants you to believe that this can be worn to the office and on your weekend rock-climbing expedition; the simple truth is it can’t. It’s heavy and slightly cumbersome, so it makes typing a more difficult task than it needs to be.

Image courtesy of Elliot Brown

Image courtesy of Elliot Brown

But why would you want to wear the Canford to the office anyway? Considering the watch was put through as stringent a training program as an actual marine, it was made with the adventurer and the adrenaline junkie in mind. And if you don’t feel that you fit into those categories then the Canford is big and tough enough to demand that you change to suit its needs.

There are a lot of things to dislike about the Canford, it’s big, it’s cumbersome and priced between £350 and £500 it’s not exactly cheap, but it is a watch that demands attention and will make even the smallest wearer feel like a powerlifter.