The lifelong human imperative to communicate is so strong that people talk not only to other people but also to their pets, their plants and their computers. Unlike pets and plants, computers might one day reciprocate. DARPA's new Communicating with Computers (CwC) program aims to develop technology to turn computers into good communicators.
DARPA and the Navy recently agreed to locate a fabrication laboratory, or Fab Lab, at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center (MARMC, pronounced “mar-mack”) in Norfolk, Virginia, under DARPA’s Manufacturing Experimentation and Outreach Two (MENTOR2) program.
How will the growing use of robots change people’s lives and make a difference for society? How do teens want robots to make a difference in the future? As ever more capable robots evolve from the realm of science fiction to real-world devices, these questions are becoming increasingly important. And who better to address them than members of the generation that may be the first to fully co-exist with robots in the future? Through its new Robots4Us student video contest, DARPA is asking high school students to address these issues creatively by producing short videos about the robotics-related possibilities they foresee and the kind of robot-assisted society in which they would like to live.
Warfighters in aircraft, on ships and in ground vehicles have benefited tremendously from technological advances in recent decades, with advanced capabilities ranging from real-time situational awareness to precision armaments. But many of these benefits depend on equipment with substantial size, weight and power requirements, and so have remained unavailable to dismounted infantry squads who must carry all their equipment themselves.
Initiated in 2009 in collaboration with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force, DARPA’s Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) program has been investing in advanced technologies to provide a leap ahead in U.S. surface warfare capability. The LRASM program aims to reduce dependence on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, network links and GPS navigation in electronic warfare environments while providing innovative terminal survivability approaches and precision lethality in the face of advanced countermeasures. After LRASM prototypes completed two successful flight tests in 2013, LRASM transitioned from a DARPA technology demonstration program to a formal U.S. Navy program of record in February 2014, with fielding set for 2018.
Despite recent advances in technology for upper-limb prostheses, artificial arms and hands are still unable to provide users with sensory feedback, such as the “feel” of things being touched or awareness of limb position and movement. Without this feedback, even the most advanced prosthetic limbs remain numb to users, a factor that impairs the limbs’ effectiveness and their wearers’ willingness to use them. In a step toward overcoming these challenges, DARPA has awarded prime contracts for Phase 1 of its Hand Proprioception and Touch Interfaces (HAPTIX) program.
Through its Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program, DARPA has been developing new concepts and architectures to get small satellites into orbit more economically on short notice. Bradford Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, provided an update on ALASA today at the 18th Annual Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s Commercial Space Transportation Conference in Washington, D.C. Tousley discussed several key accomplishments of the program to date, including successful completion of Phase 1 design, selection of the Boeing Company as prime contractor for Phase 2 of the program, which includes conducting 12 orbital test launches of an integrated prototype system.
Pittsburgh this weekend offered a look into the future of cybersecurity, with students from each of the nation’s Service academies scrambling to protect their computer systems, find adversaries’ vulnerabilities and exploit them in the second annual CyberStakes Live competition, sponsored by DARPA. More than 40 students participated in this year’s event, which tested teams’ and individuals’ abilities in numerous core cybersecurity skills and culminated in two exciting Capture the Flag (CTF) contests modeled after the global tournaments that attract many of the world’s top cybersecurity experts.
Robots can learn to recognize objects and patterns fairly well, but to interpret and be able to act on visual input is much more difficult. Researchers at the University of Maryland, funded by DARPA’s Mathematics of Sensing, Exploitation and Execution (MSEE) program, recently developed a system that enabled robots to process visual data from a series of “how to” cooking videos on YouTube. Based on what was shown on a video, robots were able to recognize, grab and manipulate the correct kitchen utensil or object and perform the demonstrated task with high accuracy—without additional human input or programming.
The U.S. military’s investments in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have proven invaluable for missions from intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) to tactical strike. Most of the current systems, however, require constant control by a dedicated pilot and sensor operator as well as a large number of analysts, all via telemetry. These requirements severely limit the scalability and cost-effectiveness of UAS operations and pose operational challenges in dynamic, long-distance engagements with highly mobile targets in contested electromagnetic environments.
A total of $3.5 million in prizes will now be awarded to the top three finishers in the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC), the final event of which will be held June 5-6, 2015, at Fairplex in Pomona, Calif. The new prize structure was created in recognition of both the significant progress already demonstrated by teams toward development of human-supervised robot technology for disaster response and the increased number of teams planning to compete in the Finals, including those funded by the European Union and the governments of Japan and South Korea. Aside from the previously announced $2 million grand prize, DARPA plans to award $1 million to the runner-up and $500,000 to the third-place team. DARPA expects at least twenty teams to compete in the DRC Finals.
Uncertainty is sometimes unavoidable. But in the world of scientific computing and engineering, at least, what’s worse than uncertainty is being uncertain about how uncertain one is.
Transduction involving the conversion of energy from one form into another is common in many military and space devices, such as communications antennas (radio waves to electrical signals), thermoelectric generators (heat to electricity) and electric motors (electromagnetic to kinetic energy). Research efforts to develop new transductional materials, however, have largely been limited to laboratory demonstrations and haven’t always resulted in new capabilities or significant size, weight, and power (SWAP) reduction for military devices and systems.
The DARPA YouTube channel receives millions of visits each year. In 2014, we shared information about new efforts and announced milestones reached in our existing programs. A full list of videos is available at http://ow.ly/G88w2. A list of the top 10 most popular DARPA web features of 2014 is available at http://go.usa.gov/e8t3.
The DARPA Website receives millions of visits each year. In 2014, we shared information about new efforts and announced milestones reached in our existing programs. A full list of web features is available at http://go.usa.gov/MjgB. Here is a look back at the most popular stories, based on visits.
The holiday season is an important time for military Service members and veterans to enjoy time with their families. Ensuring that the right gifts arrive for the right people on time is key to maintaining morale and force effectiveness. To do its part, DARPA has launched the High-speed Optimized Handling of Holiday Operations (HO HO HO) initiative, which is designed to help Santa Claus and his elves more quickly and efficiently complete their holiday duties.
Military teams patrolling dangerous urban environments overseas and rescue teams responding to disasters such as earthquakes or floods currently rely on remotely piloted unmanned aerial vehicles to provide a bird’s-eye view of the situation and spot threats that can’t be seen from the ground. But to know what’s going on inside an unstable building or a threatening indoor space often requires physical entry, which can put troops or civilian response teams in danger.
Many chronic inflammatory diseases and mental health conditions affecting military Service members and veterans involve abnormal activity in the peripheral nervous system, which plays a key role in organ function. Monitoring and targeted regulation of peripheral nerve signals offer great promise to help patients restore and maintain their health without surgery or drugs. Current neuromodulation devices are typically used as a last resort, however, because they are relatively large (about the size of a deck of cards), require invasive surgical implantation and often produce side effects due to their lack of precision. DARPA’s Electrical Prescriptions (ElectRx) program is seeking innovative research proposals to help transform neuromodulation therapies from last resort to first choice for a wide range of diseases.
Destroying chemical warfare agents in bulk is a challenge for the military and international community. Current methods of eradication, such as incineration or hydrolysis, create toxic waste that requires further processing. And the logistics required to transport large stockpiles from storage to a disposal site can be risky and expensive. Additionally, different types of chemicals require different methods to make them safe, so each agent requires a specific neutralization procedure – one size doesn’t fit all. To address these challenges, DARPA has announced the Agnostic Compact Demilitarization of Chemical Agents (ACDC) program and issued a Broad Agency Announcement solicitation today
Under the auspices of DARPA’s Integrity and Reliability of Integrated Circuits program, researchers from the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) and Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) are collaborating in powerful new ways to determine the reliability and integrity of microchips embedded in the some of the nation’s most critical military weapon and cyber systems.
The giant, balloon-like inflatable robot named Baymax in Disney’s Big Hero 6 has its roots in real-world research conducted by iRobot Corporation, Carnegie Mellon University and Otherlab under DARPA’s Maximum Mobility Manipulation (M3) program. The film’s co-director, Don Hall, has said he was inspired to cast Baymax as an air-filled, soft robot after he saw an inflatable robotic arm on a visit to Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute. Carnegie Mellon’s work in soft robotics has been supported by DARPA and the National Science Foundation.
Launches of satellites for the Department of Defense (DoD) or other government agencies often cost hundreds of millions of dollars each and require scheduling years in advance for one of the handful of available slots at the nation’s limited number of launch locations. This slow, expensive process is causing a bottleneck in placing essential space assets in orbit, especially in geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) approximately 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above the Earth.
Military air operations typically rely on large, manned, robust aircraft, but such missions put these expensive assets—and their pilots—at risk. While small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) can reduce or eliminate such risks, they lack the speed, range and endurance of larger aircraft. These complementary traits suggest potential benefits in a blended approach—one in which larger aircraft would carry, launch and recover multiple small UAS. Such an approach could greatly extend the range of UAS operations, enhance overall safety, and cost-effectively enable groundbreaking capabilities for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and other missions.
Many businesses and academic researchers wishing to pursue cutting-edge research ideas with government support lack the resources to navigate the burdensome paperwork requirements required to win federal grants or contracts. DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office (BTO) has created a simplified proposal process to attract and fund new ideas from just those types of innovators—those operating at the intersection of biology and technology who may never have worked with the Defense Department and may otherwise have remained too daunted to try.
Officials from Guinness World Records today recognized DARPA’s Terahertz Electronics program for creating the fastest solid-state amplifier integrated circuit ever measured. The ten-stage common-source amplifier operates at a speed of one terahertz (1012 GHz), or one trillion cycles per second—150 billion cycles faster than the existing world record of 850 gigahertz set in 2012.
Understanding the anatomical structure and function of the brain is a longstanding goal in neuroscience and a top priority of President Obama’s brain initiative. Electrical monitoring and stimulation of neuronal signaling is a mainstay technique for studying brain function, while emerging optical techniques—which use photons instead of electrons—are opening new opportunities for visualizing neural network structure and exploring brain functions. Electrical and optical techniques offer distinct and complementary advantages that, if used together, could offer profound benefits for studying the brain at high resolution. Combining these technologies is challenging, however, because conventional metal electrode technologies are too thick (>500 nm) to be transparent to light, making them incompatible with many optical approaches.
DARPA yesterday issued a solicitation for proposals responsive to its Spectral Combs from UV to THz (SCOUT) program, which seeks new capabilities for highly sensitive remote detection of multiple biological or chemical agents in liquid or gaseous forms. A proposers day is set for Oct. 15 via webcast.
One of the key goals of DARPA's Ground X-Vehicle Technologies (GXV-T) program is improving the survivability of ground-based armored fighting vehicles through crew augmentation. Crew augmentation involves improved physical and electronically assisted situational awareness for crew and passengers. It also involves semi-autonomous driver assistance and automation of key crew functions similar to capabilities found in modern commercial airplane cockpits to reduce onboard crew and training requirements.
Advanced software and equipment to aid in the fight against counterfeit microelectronics in U.S. weapons and cybersecurity systems has been transitioned to military partners under DARPA’s Integrity and Reliability of Integrated Circuits (IRIS) program. Researchers with SRI International, an IRIS performer, announced today they have provided Advanced Scanning Optical Microscope (ASOM) technology to the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) in Crane, Indiana, where it will join an arsenal of laboratory equipment used to ensure the integrity of microelectronics.
Seeking to expand the nation’s capability to detect and identify materials that are not easily visualized by conventional imaging technologies, DARPA today released an announcement inviting proposals to develop portable, next-generation imaging tools that combine the complementary benefits of X-ray and neutron radiography.
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