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://www.darpa.mil/news. Here is a look back at the most popular stories, based on visits.
10. Memex Aims to Create a New Paradigm for Domain-Specific Search
February 9, 2014—Today's web searches use a centralized, one-size-fits-all approach that searches the Internet with the same set of tools for all queries. While that model has been wildly successful commercially, it does not work well for many government use cases. For example, it still remains a largely manual process that does not save sessions, requires nearly exact input with one-at-a-time entry, and doesn't organize or aggregate results beyond a list of links. Moreover, common search practices miss information in the deep web—the parts of the web not indexed by standard commercial search engines—and ignore shared content across pages. To help overcome these challenges, DARPA has launched the Memex program.
9. DARPA Open Catalog Makes Agency-Sponsored Software and Publications Available to All
February 4, 2014—DARPA has invested in many programs that sponsor fundamental and applied research in areas of computer science, which have led to new advances in theory as well as practical software. The R&D community has asked about the availability of results, and now DARPA has responded by creating the DARPA Open Catalog, a place for organizing and sharing those results in the form of software, publications, data and experimental details. The Catalog, a living document that DARPA is gradually populating, can be found at http://opencatalog.darpa.mil/.
8. President Obama Highlights New DARPA Program Aimed at Developing Novel Therapies Customized to Individual Patients
August 26, 2014—The body’s peripheral nervous system constantly monitors the status of internal organs and helps regulate biological responses to infection, injury or other imbalances. When this regulatory process goes awry due to injury or illness, peripheral nerve signals can actually exacerbate a condition, causing pain, inflammation or immune dysfunction. That reality raises the tantalizing prospect that a number of difficult-to-treat conditions might be managed more effectively by precise modulation of the peripheral nervous system than by conventional medical devices or medications. And it explains why DARPA’s new Electrical Prescriptions (ElectRx) program was among the initiatives the White House highlighted today as President Obama addressed the need for new and more effective strategies for improving the health of Service members, veterans and others.
7. DARPA Launches Biological Technologies Office
April 1, 2014—DARPA has created a new division, the Biological Technologies Office (BTO), to explore the increasingly dynamic intersection of biology and the physical sciences. Its goals are to harness the power of biological systems by applying the rigorous tools of engineering and related disciplines, and to design next-generation technologies that are inspired by insights gained from the life sciences. All told, BTO will explore the intricate and highly adapted mechanisms of natural processes and demonstrate how they can be applied to the mission of national defense.
6. VTOL X-Plane Program Takes Off
March 18, 2014—For generations, new designs for vertical takeoff and landing aircraft have remained unable to increase top speed without sacrificing range, efficiency or the ability to do useful work. DARPA’s VTOL Experimental Plane (VTOL X-Plane) program seeks to overcome these challenges through innovative cross-pollination between the fixed-wing and rotary-wing worlds, to enable radical improvements in vertical and cruise flight capabilities. In an important step toward that goal, DARPA has awarded prime contracts for Phase 1 of VTOL X-Plane to four companies.
5. ARES Aims to Provide More Front-line Units with Mission-tailored VTOL Capabilities
February 11, 2014—DARPA’s Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES) program aims to develop and demonstrate a modular transportation system built around a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) flight module operated as an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The flight module would carry one of several different types of detachable mission modules, each designed for a specific purpose, such as Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), casualty evacuation and cargo resupply. The program seeks to provide flexible, terrain-independent transportation that avoids ground-based threats, in turn supporting expedited, cost-effective operations and improving the likelihood of mission success.
4. From Idea to Market in Eight Years, DARPA-Funded DEKA Arm System Earns FDA Approval
May 9, 2014—DARPA launched the Revolutionizing Prosthetics program with a radical goal: gain U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for an advanced electromechanical prosthetic upper limb with near-natural control that enhances independence and improves quality of life for amputees. Today, less than eight years after the effort was launched, that dream is a reality; the FDA approved the DEKA Arm System.
3. New Ground X-Vehicle Technology (GXV-T) Program Aims to Break the “More Armor” Paradigm for Protection August 18, 2014—Ground-based armored fighting vehicles and their occupants have traditionally relied on armor and maneuverability for protection. The amount of armor needed for today’s threat environments, however, is becoming increasingly burdensome and ineffective against ever-improving weaponry. DARPA's Ground X-Vehicle Technology (GXV-T) program seeks to develop revolutionary technologies to enable a layered approach to protection that would use less armor more strategically and improve vehicles’ ability to avoid detection, engagement and hits by adversaries. Such capabilities would enable smaller, faster vehicles in the future to more efficiently and cost-effectively tackle varied and unpredictable combat situations.
2. DARPA Z-Man Program Demonstrates Human Climbing Like Geckos
June 5, 2014—DARPA’s Z-Man program has demonstrated the first known human climbing of a glass wall using climbing devices inspired by geckos. The historic ascent involved a 218-pound climber ascending and descending 25 feet of glass, while also carrying an additional 50-pound load in one trial, with no climbing equipment other than a pair of hand-held, gecko-inspired paddles. The goal of the program is to develop biologically inspired climbing aids to enable warfighters carrying a full combat load to scale vertical walls constructed from typical building materials.
1. EXACTO Demonstrates First-Ever Guided .50-Caliber Bullets
July 10, 2014—DARPA’s Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) program recently conducted the first successful live-fire tests demonstrating in-flight guidance of .50-caliber bullets. This video shows EXACTO rounds maneuvering in flight to hit targets that are offset from where the sniper rifle is aimed. EXACTO’s specially designed ammunition and real-time optical guidance system help track and direct projectiles to their targets by compensating for weather, wind, target movement and other factors that could impede successful hits.
Beyond these Top Ten, an extra shout-out goes to the Defense Sciences Office, which had the most popular story based on total page views:
Defense Sciences Office: at the Edge of Science and National Security
June 16, 2014—Scientists and engineers in DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office (DSO) promote and exploit new discoveries across the frontiers of physics, chemistry, and mathematics to identify and accelerate potentially game-changing technologies for U.S. national security. After recently spinning off biological technologies into a new office, DSO’s investment portfolio, which continues to create new materials and explore the boundaries of physical phenomena, is expanding to include novel approaches to understanding, predicting, designing, and developing engineered complex systems.
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