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I'm attempting to figure out the easiest way to connect a human brain to a machine, in order to implement Immersive Reality. Constraints are below:

  • Read all user movements, and prevent the information from going to the real muscles (except for the vital ones)
  • Block sensory information from the real world, and give input on the virtual world instead

I'm thinking of something along the lines of connecting every single nerve directly to the machine, but have a lot less certainty on how to carry that out exactly. From the number of connections, to where the connections should be added (some bionic limbs visibly don't require sticking anything inside the body to work, though I'll admit they don't allow for nearly as much liberty of movement as I want here), to anything I might want to keep in mind as I write this.

Would this necessarily require extensive surgery? If so, how long would the operation/recovery supposedly last?

(Note: Implementation of the immersive virtuality once the connections are made is dealt with; I just need help with the hardware.)

Thanks in advance :)

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Depends upon your technology, as does the success/realism of the approach.

With current technologies it is not quite possible, but a useful approximation is perhaps not too far in the future

Brain scanning is improving regularly, and rudimentary thought reading via Functional MRI has been done. Combine this with improved new abilities to supply the brain with replacements for the senses as we do currently (also crudely) in the case of cochlear implants and visual prosthetics. You can see that Matrix-like technologies are within the realm of possibility, making it nearly perfect would still require very large scale improvement in the current technologies.

With full scale nano-technology the simulation could be nearly complete and perfect.

One or more nanites could be dedicated to every neuron and in fact every synapse making the simulation complete. This is of course based on theoretical technologies that are considerable beyond our abilities, perhaps even possibilities. There are sound theoretical reasons to doubt the ability to construct nanites at all.

Using an alternate type of nano-tech.

The book The Turing Option by Harry Harrison and Marvin Minsky. Marvin Minsky is a true genius leader in the field of AI. The book describes a robotic interface consisting of a bundle of electro-mechanical tendrils the divide repeatedly into smaller and smaller tendrils (manufactured by the previous branching step) all controlled by an AI. The book describes this as easily interfacing with the brain of the hero as the tendrils become so fine that can pass in and out without without bleeding or cell damage. This allows the interface to quickly be engaged or disengaged without other consequence. There are no details as to how the interface interprets or interjects data to or from the brain.

The end result is similar to nanites, but this seems a lot easier to build than full nano-tech. This could in fact become the real-life version of the spike in the back of the head in The Matrix.

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Reading from the brain is something a lot of different studies are doing. A lot of them have different levels of success. Some have even been able to capture dreams and play them back. Not sure how good it is but there you have it.

Now we also have others working on direct mind control of items. Searching for Brain control interface gets you a whole bunch of stuff. I read recently about one where a woman with a physically debilitating condition causing her to be a quadriplegic. They inserted a small device connected to her brain and it used blue tooth technology to connect to a tablet pc. She could use the notepad just as fast as you or I.

So we are getting pretty good at reading from the brain. inputs into the brain are still a little more difficult if you are trying to bypass the brain's input devices. Though there is a bit of work there too. Currently most of this is in order to help people with problems. Deaf, blind, other neurological disorders.

Though I read an article that external devices can also influence brain activity, the study was largely in reference to helping people learn faster.

One thing you might do is put people in a sensory deprivation tank that way they don't have other stimuli affecting or trying to override your program.

Just thought I should add, while you might need to run some probes/sensors into the brain for optimal connectivity, the research shows you won't need to anything anywhere near a 1-1 connection. Much less.

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I would take a different approach, working on the assumption that physically connecting machinery to individual nerve fibres is going to be too disruptive and non-reversable. Instead, you could:

  • block sensory input to the brain
  • read sensory input (which might actually involve a completely different process to blocking it)
  • block motor nerve impulses (the brain actually paralyses the body during sleep, to prevent us acting out our dreams, so you could perhaps piggyback off this mechanism, triggering it somehow)
  • read motor nerve impulses.

These four things are completely separate and should be tackled as independent problems. Then, you can implement your system without destroying the "user's" nervous system. This will require some sort of electromagnetic effector system which is capable of operating at a very fine degree of precision and complexity.

If your system exists in hyperspace (ie four-dimensions of space, rather than the usual 3) then it could easily access the interior of someone's brain, which would be analogous to a flat circuitboard: this would make the job much easier i suspect. So, step one, move into the fourth dimension :)

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your answer. The approach is indeed a better way to see it; I'll look into the sleep's motor inhibition more deeply. On the other hand, I'd like to stay as realistic as I can afford for this particular story, which would sadly rule out the use of hyperspace... The disruptive/non-reversible aspect is one of the main issues, and a part of the things the characters may have to deal with if no 'realistic' solution comes up. $\endgroup$ – Nathaniel Solyn Dec 22 '15 at 10:59
  • $\begingroup$ Obviously this was dealt with in the Matrix in a very unexplained, hand-waving sort of way by use of a big metal spike in the neck :) $\endgroup$ – Max Williams Dec 22 '15 at 11:18
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Reading the brain is possible with MRI, and there are people working on ways to read minds with the intention of playing it back later. This would be a pretty non-invasive way to see what the subject is doing. Reading intention to pick up a glass in vr is a lot easier than reading thoughts and memories and images from the brain.

As Max Williams suggested, putting the subject in a semi lucid dream state is going to be a really good way of keeping them immobilized and not acting out the VR in real life.

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