Researchers from the University of Illinois are developing a computer system capable of communicating with humans through the medium of jazz, playing improvised pieces in real time. The project forms part of DARPA's Communicating with Computers (CwC) program, approaching the development of robot communication skills from a very different direction.
Military airborne communications can be tricky. Not only do they need to overcome attempted disruption from hostiles, but also tackle the difficulties in getting different systems to work together. DARPA is looking to improve things, soliciting proposals to get both manned and unmanned systems communicating faster, more securely and in spite of enemy jamming attempts.
Two years ago, DARPA started developing self-destructing electronics as a way to prevent advanced military gear falling into the wrong hands. Now the agency is expanding on the idea with its Inbound, Controlled, Air-Releasable, Unrecoverable Systems (ICARUS) program, which is tasked with developing small, unmanned, single-use, unpowered air vehicles that can can be dropped from an aircraft to deliver supplies to isolated locations in the event of disasters, then evaporate into thin air once their job is done.
DARPA's ElectRx project envisions tiny devices, the width of a single nerve strand, that could be injected into the body to monitor certain conditions and then stimulate targeted nerves in response, harnessing the body’s own repair mechanisms to deal with a range of conditions like chronic pain, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and certain autoimmune diseases. DARPA sees the potential to create new treatments that automatically and continuously tune themselves to the needs of a specific patient.
Warships are only as effective as far as they can see, so DARPA's Towed Airborne Lift Of Naval Systems (TALONS) research effort is aiming to extend their horizons by giving them a crow's nest 1,500 ft (457 m) tall by way of a towed parafoil. A TALONS prototype recently completed sea trials off the US East Coast as part of a project to provide ships of every size with better long-distance communications and situational awareness.
A mechanical hand utilizing DARPA-developed neural technologies has
become the first to allow a paralyzed patient to feel physical
sensations through a prosthesis. The 28 year-old test subject was able
to determine which mechanical finger was being touched whilst
blindfolded, with total accuracy.
Helicopters are versatile machines capable of all manner of maneuvers in the air, but when it comes to takeoffs and landings they are very fussy creatures, preferring flat, level pads, which are scarce in combat and rescue missions. DARPA recently demonstrated a new robotic landing gear system in an unmanned flight near Atlanta, Georgia, that's designed to overcome these limitations by enabling landings on broken or uneven terrain with a high degree of safety.
The United States boasts some of the most advanced multi-mission combat aircraft in the world, but this can be a liability as well as an asset. True, each aircraft can outperform an entire squadron of a few decades ago, but they're also very expensive, incredibly complex, and not exactly expendable. For these reasons DARPA has launched the Gremlins program, which aims to develop swarms of cheaper, smarter aircraft that can be deployed and collected in midair.
In today's world, vacuum tubes or radio valves seem as dead as high button shoes and buggy whips, but DARPA sees them as very much the technology of the future. As part of a new program, the agency is looking to develop new tube designs and manufacturing techniques for use in tomorrow's high-powered communications and radar systems.
We've looked closely at the on track action at the recent 2015 DARPA Robotics Challenge, but there's a lot more to the story. Gizmag went behind the scenes to explore the "garage" where the teams tended their sophisticated charges in order to learn more about what makes the world's most advanced robots tick.