On the surface it seems like not a lot connects the brain technology industry, with its medical research on neurological diseases, and the HLS and defense industry, with its hi-tech defense systems. But according to retired Brigadier General Dr. Danny Gold, the man behind Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, who also sits on the board of Israel Brain Technologies (IBT), the two connect on many levels and can contribute one to the other.
“Israel’s defense forces have used and will use brain research to develop cutting edge technologies in a number of areas,” says Dr. Gold “One example is cyber security. We’ve used our learning of how the brain functions to predict the trajectory of cyber security attacks. Another arena is ‘genetic algorithms’, ‘fuzzy logic’, ‘neural networks’ and other brain inspired computing techniques. The Iron Dome project already implements some of these algorithms.”
Another area in which brain research can be instrumental in the defense arena is in the development of training tools and team / individual screening tools for perfect match to the missions. Pilot simulator training is based on our knowledge of the working of the brain. According to Dr. Gold, there is also great potential in developing advanced systems for decision making under pressure, such as during battle. Such research is already underway, and may one day provide soldiers in battle with automated tools to reach optimal decisions, minute by minute.
It may sound like an action movie, but according to Dr. Gold there’s an Israeli start-up already developing a type of robotic suit that soldiers will be able to wear in the future, which will give them more strength and higher abilities, turning them into ‘super-soldiers’.
But the learning goes in the opposite direction as well. According to Dr. Gold, the brain industry, and specifically Israel’s brain industry, can and does learn a lot from the defense industry. “How do you approach a complex problem and solve it? We do this in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) every day. Many of the people involved in these types of projects, like the Iron Dome for example, then take their skills to industry. What they learned about putting together complex multidisciplinary solutions serves them well in fields such as hi-tech and braintech.”
One example of technology flowing from the military to civilian uses is Israeli company ReWalk. The company’s goal is to give people with lower limb disabilities, such as paraplegia, an experience that is as close to natural walking as possible. The ReWalk exoskeleton suit uses a patented technology with motorized legs that power knee and hip movement. The technology was recently presented to President Obama on his last trip to Israel.
Israel is at an advantage in developing brain technologies, according to Dr. Gold, and for a number of reasons, beyond the skilled workers that emerge from the IDF. “Israelis are by nature risk-takers,” says Dr. Gold, “We’ve seen this daring nature serve us well in the military, in hi-tech, and now in braintech.” Another reason Dr. Gold predicts success for Israel’s growing brain industry is the country’s size, which may be problematic in some ways but has its own benefits. “Israel is small, everyone knows everyone. One of the keys to a successful industry is to have the different parties – researchers, investors, entrepreneurs, doctors, industry– in contact with each other. This is easier to do in a small country such as Israel, and IBT is also playing a key role in bringing everyone together. Israel is also very open to international cooperation, another factor which will accelerate the growth of the brain industry.”