In an amazing project at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a quadriplegic flew a fighter jet simulator by way of signals from her brain.
Jan Scheuermann, 55, lost the use of her body in 2003 due to a rare hereditary disease, according to the Washington Post.
In 2012, the mother of two had two tiny electrodes put into her brain so she could operate a robotic arm in a series of experiments conducted by DARPA and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
But after mastering both right- and left-handed versions of the arm, Scheuermann wished to test herself even further.
At the first annual Future of War conference last week, DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar announced the woman had asked to fly simulators of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and a single-engine Cessna.
That’s a pretty good story right there, but Scheuermann wanted to push the boundaries and go beyond controlling the joystick:
“Instead of thinking about controlling a joystick, which is what our ace pilots do when they’re driving this thing, Jan’s thinking about controlling the airplane directly,” Prabhakar said. “For someone who’s never flown — she’s not a pilot in real life — she’s flying that simulator directly from her neural signaling.”
Every hint of a major technological advance brings a host of questions and nightmare scenarios along with it, but the initial sense of wonder should be savored before worrying about what could go wrong.