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Crowd-sourced Formal Verification Program Generates Thousands of Software Annotations

The initial phase of a DARPA program that used publicly accessible online games to accelerate the verification of software has helped produce hundreds of thousands of program annotations in common software programming languages, adding credence to the idea that digital games can be an effective means of crowdsourcing solutions to software problems. The results have inspired DARPA to launch a new round of games with the goal of extending the successes to date and learning more about the approach’s potential.  Article 
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CHIKV Challenge Announces Winners, Progress toward Forecasting the Spread of Infectious Diseases

To accelerate the development of new infectious disease forecasting methods, DARPA launched its CHIKV Challenge competition last year. Thirty-eight teams from around the world vied to develop the most accurate predictions of CHIKV cases for all Western Hemisphere countries and territories between September 2014 and March 2015. On May 12, DARPA unveiled the 11 winners of the competition during a scientific review event held at the Agency’s offices in Arlington, Va. The event highlighted results, lessons learned and potential next steps to improve state-of-the-art infectious disease forecasting. The winning teams received a total of $500,000 in prize money. 

The chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is quickly spreading through the Western Hemisphere; as of May 15, 2015, the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) had tallied close to 1.4 million suspected cases and more than 33,000 confirmed cases since the virus’ first appearance in the Americas in December 2013. Spread by mosquitoes, chikungunya is rarely fatal but can cause debilitating joint and muscle pain, fever, nausea, fatigue and rash, and poses a growing public health and national security risk. Governments and health organizations could take more effective proactive steps to limit the spread of CHIKV if they had accurate forecasts of where and when it would appear. But such predictions for CHIKV and other emerging infectious diseases remain beyond the reach of current modeling capabilities. Article 

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Shedding Light on Untapped Information in Photons


Conventional optical imaging systems today largely limit themselves to the measurement of light intensity, providing two-dimensional renderings of three-dimensional scenes and ignoring significant amounts of additional information that may be carried by captured light. For example, many photons traverse complex paths punctuated by multiple bounces prior to entering the aperture of a camera or other imager—a process through which these photons pick up information about their surroundings. Beyond such directional variability, light enjoys other aspects or degrees of freedom—including variations in propagation time, polarization state and spectral content, as well as wave-related properties such as coherence, diffraction and interference—all of which provide potential mechanisms by which light can acquire and convey information. Most of this information remains untapped today. Article

Hellads 144

HELLADS Laser Achieves Acceptance For Field Testing


DARPA’s High-Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS) has demonstrated sufficient laser power and beam quality to advance to a series of field tests. The achievement of government acceptance for field trials marks the end of the program’s laboratory development phase and the beginning of a new and challenging set of tests against rockets, mortars, vehicles and surrogate surface-to-air missiles at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. Article

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SWEEPER Demonstrates Wide-Angle Optical Phased Array Technology

DARPA’s Short-range Wide-field-of-view Extremely agile Electronically steered Photonic EmitteR (SWEEPER) program has successfully integrated breakthrough non-mechanical optical scanning technology onto a microchip. Freed from the traditional mechanical architecture of gimbaled mounts, lenses and servos, SWEEPER technology has demonstrated that it can sweep a laser back and forth more than 100,000 times per second, 10,000 times faster than current state-of-the-art mechanical systems. It can also steer a laser precisely across a 51-degree arc, the widest field of view ever achieved by a chip-scale optical scanning system. This wide-angle demonstration of optical phased array technology could lead to greatly enhanced capabilities for numerous military and commercial technologies, including autonomous vehicles, robotics, sensors and high-data-rate communications. 

Many essential military capabilities—including autonomous navigation, chemical-biological sensing, precision targeting and communications—increasingly rely upon laser-scanning technologies such as LIDAR (think radar that uses light instead of radio waves). These technologies provide amazing high-resolution information at long ranges but have a common Achilles heel: They require mechanical assemblies to sweep the laser back and forth. These large, slow opto-mechanical systems are both temperature- and impact-sensitive and often cost tens of thousands of dollars each—all factors that limit widespread adoption of current technologies for military and commercial use. Article

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Fast Track Program Invites Non-Traditional Roboticists to Help Bolster National Security


The past 10 years have seen an explosion of robotics advances from small businesses and individuals, thanks in part to lower manufacturing costs and the global rise of community workshops such as makerspaces and hackerspaces, which serve as incubators for rapid, low-cost collaboration and innovation. Unfortunately, the small-scale robotics community has tended to fly under the radar of traditional federal agencies and commercial technology providers, which generally rely on multi-year, multi-million-dollar contracts for technology development. This disconnect means that the U.S. government is not benefiting from some of the most cutting-edge robotics developers in the nation. Article

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