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Shedding Light on Untapped Information in Photons

DARPA’s Revolutionary Enhancement of Visibility by Exploiting Active Light-fields (REVEAL) program seeks to unlock information in photons that current imaging systems discard. By extracting information from various aspects or characteristics of light, REVEAL seeks to fully reconstruct scenes in 3D from a single viewpoint. (Image credit: Felix Lipov/Shutterstock.com)
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 
DARPA’s Revolutionary Enhancement of Visibility by Exploiting Active Light-fields (REVEAL) program seeks to unlock information in photons that current imaging systems discard. By extracting information from various aspects or characteristics of light, REVEAL seeks to fully reconstruct scenes in 3D from a single viewpoint. (Image credit: Felix Lipov/Shutterstock.com)
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HELLADS Laser Achieves Acceptance For Field Testing

Hellads 

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

Shield 

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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Five High School Students Win Robots4Us Video Contest—and a Trip to the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals

Five short videos prepared by U.S. high school students have been selected as winning entries in DARPA’s “Robots4Us” video contest and will be featured at a June 7 invitational workshop on the future of robotics. DARPA launched the contest to stimulate student consideration of the potential societal implications of robotics. The student winners—whose videos look ahead to a future when robots will play ever more important roles in fields ranging from agriculture to medicine to emergency response—will travel as DARPA’s guests with a parent or guardian to the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals, to be held in Pomona, Calif., on June 5 and 6. 

Five short videos prepared by U.S. high school students have been selected as winning entries in DARPA’s “Robots4Us” video contest and will be featured at a June 7 invitational workshop on the future of robotics. DARPA launched the contest to stimulate student consideration of the potential societal implications of robotics. Article 

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Brainstorm with DARPA on a “100x Zoom Lens” for Seeing Distant Space Objects More Clearly

Imagery of objects in low Earth orbit (LEO) (left) can achieve much higher resolution than images of objects in geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) (right), which appear only as rough blobs. To improve space domain awareness, DARPA has issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking specific technological information and innovative ideas to achieve high-resolution imaging of objects in GEO. 

Imaging of Earth from satellites in space has vastly improved in recent years. But the opposite challenge—using Earth-based systems to find, track and provide detailed characterization of satellites and other objects in high orbits—has frustrated engineers even as the need for space domain awareness has grown. State-of-the-art imagery of objects in low Earth orbit (LEO), up to 2,000 km (1,200 miles) high, can achieve resolution of 1 pixel for every 10 cm today, providing relatively crisp details. But image resolution for objects in geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO), a favorite parking place for space assets roughly 36,000 km (22,000 miles) high, drops to just 1 pixel for every 2 meters, meaning many GEO satellites appear as little more than fuzzy blobs when viewed from Earth. Article 

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