Photokina 2014 highlights

DARPA

A climber uses the Z-Man paddles to climb up a glass surface

Geckos are likely better climbers than any other animal, so it's no surprise that a number of researchers have tried to copy that ability via man-made technology. One group, from Stanford University, was particularly successful with a small climbing robot known as the Stickybot. Four years ago, we heard about how they were also looking into applying the Stickybot tech to a system that would allow humans to climb up vertical surfaces. Now, DARPA has announced the first successful demonstration of that system, known as Z-Man.  Read More

The FDA has given approval for commercial marketing of the DEKA Arm

Prosthetics have come a long way in recent years, with many artificial limbs incorporating advanced robotic and cybernetic systems that include everything up to and including mind control. Unfortunately, for all these advances, the lack of prosthetics capable of complex motor control means that most users see them as tools rather than replacement limbs. However, that may be changing as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced approval for marketing of the DEKA Arm system, the first prosthetic arm set to hit the market that translates signals from a patient’s muscles to carry out complex tasks.  Read More

Artist's impression of ALIAS, a drop-in automated flight control system designed to make t...

Flying a military aircraft is the classic example of long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of terror. Part of the reason for this is that despite half a century of creating automated flight systems, emergencies still require flight crews to multitask like a one-tentacled octopus. DARPA is hoping to change this with its Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program aimed at producing a drop-in automated flight control system designed to make the pilot's life simpler while reducing the size of flight crews.  Read More

Using implantable sensors linked wirelessly to external modules, the goal is to provide li...

Many modern prosthetic limbs are so intricate that they seem like something from the sci-fi cyborg realm. Unfortunately, to the wearer these marvels still feel like lumps of dead metal and plastic. DARPA's recently announced Hand Proprioception and Touch Interfaces (HAPTIX) program aims to change this. Using implantable sensors linked wirelessly to external modules, the goal is to provide lifelike prosthetic limbs with such a high degree of sensory feedback that they bring a sense of being part of the the wearer’s body, not something just strapped on.  Read More

DARPA plans to re-purpose RQ-7 Shadow UAVs to provide even the most remote US forces with ...

The Defence Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA) plans to extend connectivity for forward military units with the use of small Wi-Fi-hosting drones. The aim of the Mobile Hotspots project is to provide a reliable, mobile source of bandwidth to all echelons of the military on a scale unthinkable using current methods.  Read More

One of BRD's existing electric off-road motorbikes

An elite team of commandos zip across rough enemy terrain, on motorcycles that produce no engine noise, yet that also have more range than pure electric bikes ... That's a scenario that DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) would like to make real. To that end, it recently gave a small business innovation research grant to Logos Technologies, to develop the bikes.  Read More

DARPA's new Biological Technologies Office division aims to 'merge biology, engineering, a...

From robotics to optics and forgery prevention to solar cells, biomimicry has proven fertile ground for researchers. Recognizing nature's potential in the development of new technologies, DARPA has announced the establishment of the Biological Technologies Office (BTO), a new division that aims to "merge biology, engineering, and computer science to harness the power of natural systems for national security."  Read More

DARPA is working on revolutionizing rotorcraft technology

Helicopters and other rotorcraft are impressive bits of technology, but the only place where they match the performance of fixed-wing aircraft is in bad 1980s television. That may soon change with DARPA announcing the selection of four companies to compete in the next phase of its Vertical Take Off and Landing Experimental Plane (VTOL X-Plane) program. The four companies are tasked with developing unmanned demonstrator aircraft designed to increase the performance of VTOL rotor aircraft while reducing their complexity.  Read More

DARPA's ARES consists of a VTOL flight module capable of carrying several different types ...

Helicopters are an invaluable military resource for transporting supplies, carrying out surveillance and reconnaissance, and evacuating casualties from rugged terrain. Unfortunately, they are also a finite resource. That's why DARPA is looking to share the load with the Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES) concept, a compact, high-speed and highly-automated delivery system with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capabilities.  Read More

Schaft scored 27 points

Leave it to DARPA to turn disaster relief into a competitive sport for robots, and for Google to walk away with the prize. On Saturday, 16 robotics teams from around the world competed in the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials for 2013, as part of DARPA’s project for developing robots capable of autonomously navigating disaster areas and doing useful work using tools and materials at hand. The two-day event was streamed live on December 20 and 21 from Florida’s Homestead Miami Speedway. Google’s Schaft humanoid robot scored 27 points and won first place as it navigated an obstacle course which was made to simulate a disaster area, while carrying out a series of tasks.  Read More

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