A revolutionary new technology may allow future warfighters to command their equipment to physically change itself to meet new operational needs or to form spare parts or tools. Researchers are developing techniques to order materials to self-assemble or alter their shape, perform a function and then disassemble themselves. These capabilities offer the possibility for morphing aircraft and ground vehicles, uniforms that can alter themselves to be comfortable in any climate, and “soft” robots that flow like mercury through small openings to enter caves and bunker complexes.
A Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher is developing a way to take simple descriptions of behavior patterns and assemble them to uncover complex dynamics. Once achieved, this capability would enable data to drive the learning mechanism with as little external intervention as possible. Although only in the basic research phase, this methodology could one day enable warfighters and analysts to take seemingly unrelated information and reveal underlying behavior—a valuable commodity in fighting the Global War on Terrorism.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has embarked on a quest to develop a soda-can-size robot that can shape shift enough to fit through a hole the diameter of a quarter. Working with industry and academia, the agency’s Chemical Robots program seeks to create a new class of soft, flexible, meso-scale mobile device that can navigate through arbitrarily shaped openings. As envisioned, the robot would then perform tasks related to search and rescue or reconnaissance, depending on the payload.
Uncertainty has challenged military operations since the days of the ancient Greeks. An experimental decision-making technology could help future commanders see through some of the fog of war by helping them plan operations, recognize when a plan is not working and develop alternatives to keep ahead of the enemy.
An experimental sensor technology may one day permit reconnaissance and combat aircraft to detect and identify ground targets more rapidly and efficiently than with radar. The prototype equipment uses a laser to create a high-resolution image of an object from an aircraft in flight, something that only radar had been able to achieve.
Electronic devices across an array of fields may soon experience major improvements because of advancements in diamond film technologies. The material results in the enhanced functioning of various technological tools, and organizations from the military to the medical community could reap the benefits.
Researchers have developed nanoscale sensors capable of detecting trace amounts of chemical and biological agents. The tiny devices can be placed on microchips, creating the potential for highly accurate networked sensors embedded in a variety of equipment and systems.
Businesses, the military and consumers have never seen the pace of change in computing that may be just around the corner, according to a leading technologist at the world's largest software company. Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer at Microsoft Corporation, predicts that new hardware and software architectures will open up a host of revolutionary capabilities and applications-but they also will tax information system developers and managers who must stay abreast of advances without sacrificing the integrity of their systems.
Troops in the field may soon have a little help handling their busy schedules. Researchers are working on a developmental distributed intelligent software system that adapts field units' mission plans as situations and events unfold. The software can be used with a variety of devices and reduces the time and personnel necessary when changing tactics.
Daring the world's robot builders and visionaries to design autonomous ground vehicles that could traverse the treacherous terrain of the Mojave Desert was not enough for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Always on the lookout for new ways to solve persistent problems, it is now taking its quest to the streets-the city streets, that is. Dubbing its latest competition Urban Challenge, the agency is enticing the mechanically inclined dreamers of the world with substantial cash awards to develop a driverless vehicle that can master the roads of a metropolis.