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  • 2015/02/20 DARPA Seeks to Remove Communication Barrier Between Humans and Computers
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    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.

    2015/02/12 Frontline Innovation: DARPA to put Fab Lab at Navy Ship Maintenance Center
    DARPA MENTOR2 performers observe current industrial-scale laser cutting at Norfolk area industrial Ship Yards. The Fab Lab installation at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center will include a smaller laser cutter and other prototyping equipment. Navy personnel will be able to train on the Fab Lab equipment to gain insight into the operation of larger equipment while fabricating creative solutions to maintenance problems. (Photo courtesy of BAE Norfolk Systems Ship Repair). 

    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.

    2015/02/11 DARPA Launches Robots4Us Video Contest for High School Students
    DARPA’s Robots4Us contest asks high school students to create videos explaining their thoughts on how robots might contribute to future society. (DARPA image) 

    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.

    2015/02/09 Squad X Core Technologies Seeks to Bring Technological Advances to the Infantry Squad

    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.

    2015/02/09 LRASM Prototype is Three-for-Three on Successful Flight Tests

    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.

    2015/02/08 HAPTIX Starts Work to Provide Prosthetic Hands with Sense of Touch
    To help HAPTIX performers more quickly and effectively conduct their research, DARPA is providing each team with open source simulation software in which to test their designs. The software includes a variant of the DARPA Robotics Challenge Simulator from the June 2013 Virtual Robotics Challenge, the first stage of the DARPA Robotics Challenge.  

    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.

    2015/02/05 ALASA Getting Closer to Delivering Big Things in Small Packages to Space
    DARPA’s Airborne Launch Assist Space Access program (ALASA) seeks to propel 100-pound satellites into low Earth orbit (LEO) within 24 hours of call-up, all for less than $1 million per launch. The program is moving ahead with rigorous testing of new technologies that one day could enable revolutionary satellite launch systems that provide more affordable, routine and reliable access to space. 

    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.

    2015/02/04 Service Academy CyberStakes Live: A Crucible of Competition for Future Cyber Leaders
    More than 40 Cadets and Midshipmen from all three Service academies and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy participated in the second annual DARPA Service Academy CyberStakes Live event this past weekend. Held at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Pittsburgh, the decathlon-style computer security competition pitted teams from each school head to head over three days. DARPA’s CyberStakes effort seeks to support the Defense Department’s goal to integrate 6,000 cybersecurity experts into combat commands by 2016. 

    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.

    2015/01/29 Robots Learn to Perform Tasks by “Watching” YouTube Videos
    University of Maryland computer scientist Yiannis Aloimonos (center) is developing robotic systems able to visually recognize objects and generate new behavior based on those observations. DARPA is funding this research through its Mathematics of Sensing, Exploitation and Execution (MSEE) program. (University of Maryland Photo) 

    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.

    2015/01/21 Establishing the CODE for Unmanned Aircraft to Fly as Collaborative Teams
    DARPA’s Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE) program aims to develop algorithms and software that would extend the mission capabilities of existing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) well beyond the current state of the art, with the goal of improving U.S. forces’ ability to conduct operations in denied or contested airspace. CODE would enable mixed teams of unmanned aircraft to find targets and engage them as appropriate under established rules of engagement, leverage nearby CODE-enabled systems with minimal supervision, and adapt to situations due to attrition of friendly forces or the emergence of unanticipated threats—all under the command of a single human mission supervisor. CODE envisions improvements that would help transform UAS operations from requiring multiple people to operate a single UAS to having one person able to oversee six or more unmanned vehicles simultaneously. 

    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.

    2015/01/20 Upgraded Atlas Robot to Go Wireless as the Stakes Are Raised for the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals

    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.

    2015/01/08 Minimizing Uncertainty in Designing Complex Military Systems
    DARPA’s Enabling Quantification of Uncertainty in Physical Systems (EQUiPS) program aims to develop mathematical tools and methods to efficiently quantify, propagate and manage multiple sources of uncertainty. 

    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.

    2015/01/07 Developing New Materials For Energy Transduction

    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.

    2014/12/30 The Top 10 Most Popular DARPA Videos of 2014
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    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.

    2014/12/29 The Top 10 Most Popular DARPA Stories of 2014
    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. DARPA appreciates all the interest and support from followers across the country and around the world and looks forward to a technologically surprising 2015. 

    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.

    2014/12/23 DARPA Opens Its Toolbox to Santa
    DARPA has launched the High-speed Optimized Handling of Holiday Operations (HO HO HO) initiative to help Santa Claus and his elves more quickly and efficiently complete their various holiday duties. HO HO HO offers St. Nicholas and his helpers access to research from numerous DARPA programs, including Memex (upper left), Open Manufacturing (upper right), Micro-Technology for Precision Navigation and Timing (lower left), Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) (lower right) and Z-man (center). 

    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.

    2014/12/22 Zoom in, Zoom out: Speedy, Agile UAVs Envisioned for Troops in Urban Missions
    DARPA’s Fast Lightweight Autonomy program aims to develop and demonstrate autonomous UAVs small enough to fit through an open window and able to fly at speeds up to 20 meters per second (45 miles per hour) through complex indoor spaces, independent of communication with outside operators or sensors and without reliance on GPS waypoints.  If successful, the algorithms developed in the program could enhance unmanned system capabilities by reducing the amount of processing power, communications, and human intervention needed for low-level tasks, such as navigation around obstacles in a cluttered environment. 

    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.

    2014/12/11 ElectRx Has the Nerve to Envision Revolutionary Therapies for Self-Healing

    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.

    2014/12/10 Pay Dirt: Turning Deadly Chemical Agents Into Harmless Soil
    DARPA’s Agnostic Compact Demilitarization of Chemical Agents (ACDC) program aims to develop technologies for a transportable, prototype disposal system that converts any chemical warfare agent into safe organic compounds, such as harmless soil, using minimal consumables in the process and creating no hazardous waste. The system would enable safe destruction of chemical stockpiles on site without need for transportation. 

    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

    2014/12/10 DARPA Virtual Lab Advances DoD’s Ability to Test Critical Microelectronics
    Pinpoint Analysis and Precision Repair: a) Photoemission electron microscopy (PEM) was used to isolate abnormal circuit function to a region, b) Laser Voltage Imaging was used to further isolate the abnormal functioning transistors, c) Laser Assisted Device Alteration was used in identify the failure mechanism and d) This FIB cross-section shows the area where a laser repair was used to correct the failure, enabling the performers’ to continue with research activities. 

    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.

    2014/11/13 DARPA-Funded Inflatable Robotics Helps Spark Idea for Silver Screen Star

    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.

    2014/11/10 Phoenix Releases POD Interface Requirements as First Step toward Vision of “FedEx® to GEO”
    DARPA’s Phoenix program has shared its Hosted POD Assembly Interface Control Document. The document provides specifications for Phoenix’s Payload Orbital Delivery (POD) system, a standardized mechanism currently in development that is intended to safely carry a wide variety of payloads to GEO aboard commercial communications satellites. PODs are designed to help take advantage of the frequency of commercial satellite launches and associated hosted payload service opportunities to enable faster and lower-cost delivery of future payloads to GEO. 

    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.

    2014/11/09 Wanted: Ideas for Transforming Planes into “Aircraft Carriers in the Sky”
    DARPA is interested in proving the feasibility and potential value of the ability to launch and recover multiple small unmanned air systems from one or more types of existing large manned aircraft. The agency has issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking technical, security and business insights to support the agency’s pursuit of future distributed airborne capabilities. 

    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.

    2014/11/06 DARPA’s EZ BAA Cuts Red Tape to Speed Funding of New Biotech Ideas

    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.

    2014/10/28 DARPA Circuit Achieves Speeds of 1 Trillion Cycles per Second, Earns Guinness World Record
    DARPA’s Terahertz Monolithic Integrated Circuit (TMIC) is the first solid-state amplifier demonstrating gain above 1 THz (1012 GHz). This achievement, recognized by Guinness World Records, could open up new areas of research and unforeseen applications in the sub-millimeter-wave spectrum and bring unprecedented performance to circuits operating in more conventional bands. 

    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.

    2014/10/20 Atom-width Graphene Sensors Could Provide Unprecedented Insights into Brain Structure and Function
    Conventional metal electrode technologies (top left) are opaque, obstructing views of underlying neural tissue. DARPA’s RE-NET program has developed new graphene sensors that are electrically conductive but only 4 atoms thick—hundreds of times thinner than current contacts (top middle). Their extreme thinness enables nearly all light to pass through across a wide range of wavelengths. Placed on a flexible plastic backing that conforms to the shape of tissue (bottom), the sensors are part of a proof-of-concept tool that demonstrates much smaller, transparent contacts that can measure and stimulate neural tissue using electrical and optical methods at the same time (top right). 

    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.

    2014/10/08 Using Light Frequencies to Sniff Out Deadly Materials from a Distance
    Molecular absorption profile superimposed on the modes of an optical frequency comb (courtesy NIST) 

    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.

    2014/10/07 GXV-T Imagines Future Armored Ground Vehicles that Could Increase Survivability through Improved Situational Awareness

    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.

    2014/09/30 DARPA Technology Identifies Counterfeit Microelectronics
    An Advanced Scanning Optical Microscope (ASOM) at the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane inspects integrated circuitry components for evidence of tampering and counterfeiting. 

    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.

    2014/09/24 Neutron Vision: Going Beyond X-Rays for Advanced Imaging in the Field
    Pictured above is an example of neutron imaging provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) with the following explanation (click high-resolution link to see full image): A digital camera took an overhead picture of the open cask (left) and a neutron imaging system photographed the lilies through the lead walls of the cask (right). This image demonstrates the power of neutrons to easily pass through otherwise impenetrable materials, such as the lead cask, and yet have enough sensitivity to reveal fine details such as the leaf veins of the Asiatic lilies. The neutron image has been sharpened slightly to improve black-and-white contrast for viewing on the web. (NIST Photo/caption)  

    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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