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.
Conversations with computers are usually pretty one-sided: Users may yell obscenities; cursors continue to blink innocuously. But a collaborative effort between the military and industry may one day replace this one-way, futile discourse with systems that understand the user's cognitive state and then respond accordingly. The implications of this capability reach beyond ensuring that warfighters are primed to receive critical information. It could prove to be instrumental to inventing ways of designing new systems and improving military training.
A U.S. Army organization has found a way to move badly needed technologies and capabilities to soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is adapting existing products such as leaf blowers to meet vital requirements in the field, and it is inserting technologies such as advanced sensors directly from military and commercial laboratories to accelerate the evolution of combat capabilities.