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The Bimanual Dexterous Robotics Platform equipped with Modular Prosthetic Limbs (both deve...

A new bomb disposal robot developed at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) is blurring the line between advanced prosthetics and robotics. Rather than building arms and hands from scratch specifically for the robot, the Bimanual Dexterous Robotics Platform (BDRP) is equipped with artificial limbs designed for amputees. The combination is relatively unique, and provided the team with a secondary use for the Modular Prosthetic Limb (MPL) it developed for the DARPA Revolutionizing Prosthetics program.  Read More

Atrist's concept of a PCAS heads-up display

The popular image of modern warfare is the digital battlefield where cyber soldiers have Terminator-like video displays and can call in an airstrike with the shine of a laser beam. While information technologies are revolutionizing the military, when it comes to calling in Close Air Support (CAS), it’s still World War One – where a misread or misheard grid reference can end up with soldiers being hit by their own artillery. DARPA’s Persistent Close Air Support (PCAS) program hopes to improve this.  Read More

Boston Dynamics' humanoid robot ATLAS attempts to put a power drill into a bin in simulati...

Teams vying for a spot in the historic DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) must first prove themselves in the Virtual Robotics Challenge (VRC) later this month. The VRC digitally simulates the physical challenges slated to take place at the tail end of the year, where real robots will get down and dirty for the first time. A total of 26 teams qualified to take part in the VRC, but only eight of them will earn the privilege of working with their very own ATLAS humanoid. Others will participate with their own unique robots.  Read More

The DARPA Unattended Ground Sensor

While the needs of the modern digital warrior are growing rapidly, military sensors take three to eight years to develop while private industry can produce similar technology in only one or two years. In the hope of speeding things up, DARPA’s Adaptable Sensor System (ADAPT) program is looking to smartphone industry technologies and practices.  Read More

Artist’s concept of a flat interface nerve electrode (FINE)

Artificial limbs have come a long way in recent years with the development of prostheses that can be controlled directly by the patient’s nerves. The problem is, links between living nerves and the prostheses break down over time, which makes permanent attachment and practical control difficult. To understand why this happens and to help give patients more control over their prostheses, DARPA has instituted a number of programs aimed at improving neural interfaces and allowing amputees to have better control of advanced prostheses in the near term.  Read More

DARPA's Warrior Web program aims to build a suit that makes life easier for soldiers in th...

Unless you've been there yourself, it's hard to imagine being a soldier in the field, trekking through rugged terrain while carrying gear weighing 100 lbs (45.35 kg) and beyond. There has a been a lot of research into exoskeletons over the years to alleviate these heavy loads, but strapping a person into a robotic outfit just isn't practical in a combat zone yet. Instead, DARPA's Warrior Web program aims to build a lightweight suit that improves a soldier's endurance and overall effectiveness, while preventing injuries.  Read More

DARPA's ARM program hand is flexible enough to pick up a basketball...

Back when DARPA first announced its Autonomous Robotic Manipulation (ARM) program in 2010, the average cost of a military-grade robot hand was around US$50,000. That's expensive even by the US military's standards – especially for something that is bound to be in close contact with explosives – which is why the hardware team of the ARM program tasked participants with developing a reliable low-cost hand. Now, thanks to work by iRobot (yes, the company that makes the Roomba robotic vacuum) and researchers at Harvard and Yale, the ARM program has a surprisingly effective new hand to play with that costs just $3,000 (in batches of 1,000 or more).  Read More

NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn conducts the SPHERES-VERTIGO investigation aboard the Interna...

Take the little floating ball that gave Luke Skywalker so much trouble during lightsaber practice, slap a pair of huge welder’s goggles on it and you start to get a picture of NASA’s latest foray into flying robots. Currently being tested aboard the International Space Station (ISS), MIT Space Systems Laboratory’s SPHERES-VERTIGO system is a free-flying robot with stereoscopic vision that is part of a program to develop ways for small satellites to autonomously create 3D maps of objects such as asteroids or disabled satellites.  Read More

Artist's concept of the Ground Systems FANG vehicle

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced on Monday the winner of the first challenges in its competition to design the Fast Adaptable Next-Generation Ground Vehicle (FANG). The US$1 million prize went to “Ground Systems” – a three-person group with members in Ohio, Texas and California. The first of three challenges, the purpose of the competition is to bring crowdsourcing to the problem of creating armored vehicles, with the hope of reducing the design costs by a factor of five.  Read More

The five-micron LWIR camera being developed by DARPA to provide individual soldiers with t...

With their ability to pick out humans by their heat signatures, long-wave infrared (LWIR) thermal imaging cameras are a valuable asset for soldiers – and alien predators. Unfortunately, non-alien built ones are expensive and so large that they need to be mounted on vehicles. In an effort to make a LWIR camera cheap and small enough for an individual soldier to carry, DARPA is working on a five-micron camera that offers a reduced size without sacrificing performance.  Read More

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