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2020/05/29 DARPA Selects Teams for Work on Tunable Gamma Ray Inspection Technology

Two California companies were selected for DARPA’s Gamma Ray Inspection Technology (GRIT) program and have begun work to develop a transportable, tunable source of gamma rays for a host of national security, industrial, and medical applications. Lumitron Technologies and RadiaBeam Technologies started work on the GRIT program in April and are exploring novel approaches to achieve high-intensity, tunable, and narrow-bandwidth sources of gamma ray radiation in a compact, transportable form factor. GRIT aims to provide a source of tunable, pure x-rays and gamma rays from tens of keV (kilo-electron volts) up through three MeV (mega-electron volts). Currently, tunable and narrow bandwidth gamma ray sources only exist at highly specialized user facilities best suited for basic research and are n...

2020/05/27 DARPA Selects Teams to Increase Security of Semiconductor Supply Chain

As Internet of Things (IoT) devices rapidly increase in popularity and deployment, economic attackers and nation-states alike are shifting their attention to the vulnerabilities of digital integrated circuit (IC) chips. Threats to IC chips are well known, and despite various measures designed to mitigate them, hardware developers have largely been slow to implement security solutions due to limited expertise, high cost and complexity, and lack of security-oriented design tools integrated with supporting semiconductor intellectual property (IP). Further, when unsecure circuits are used in critical systems, the lack of embedded countermeasures exposes them to exploitation. To address the growing threat this poses from an economic and national security perspective, DARPA developed the Automat...

Robotics transactions continue to slow in April 2020, but bright spots remain

Although the COVID-19 pandemic began late last year in China and started affecting the global economy in March, it was April 2020 when the U.S. shut down as governments scrambled to contain the infection and its economic aftershocks. However, investment and mergers and acquisition continued to benefit automation for healthcare, cleaning, and supply chain applications. Robotics Business Review tracked about 26 transactions worth a total of more than $600 million last month, compared with 29 deals worth $2.7 billion in March 2020 and 30 transactions worth $6.5 billion in April 2019. However, there were no reported shutdowns, even as driverless car testing, startup activity, and technology conferences faltered. According to ABI Research, 2019 was a record year for robotics, with $49 billion i...

Adapting practices to protect expecting parents, newborns

Dr. Tali Bogler . Photo credit: Unity Health Toronto By Emily Dawson Across Canada and around the globe, physicians and health care professionals are rapidly adapting practices as they look to find effective ways to deliver care while minimizing the risk of contracting COVID-19 for patients and health care providers. To help keep regular pre- and post-natal care and routine well-child visits on track, Dr. Tali Bogler came up with an alternative to the typical schedule to keep these patients safe during the pandemic. “Pregnant women, newborns, and children due for vaccinations still require care during the pandemic. Given the need to reduce the number of visits…the timing and frequency of visits can be adjusted,” the physician in St. Michael’s Family Health Team (FHT) and Chair of Family Pr...

2020/05/21 Episode 27: Detecting Threats with Time to Act

Episode 27: Detecting Threats with Time to Act In this episode of the Voices from DARPA podcast, Mark Wrobel, a program manager since 2019 in the agency’s Defense Sciences Office (DSO), chronicles progress in the SIGMA+ program and its potential near-term relevance to monitoring the environment for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The now-completed predecessor program, SIGMA, delivered a sensor and analysis system for detecting imminent nuclear and radiological threats in complex settings like cities, stadiums, and travel hubs. That system has been transitioning into deployments. The charge of the SIGMA+ program is to expand the threat-detection system’s abilities to include an extensive range of chemical, explosive, and biological agents. To avoid costly false alarms and potent...

Mental health services go virtual at SickKids and SickKids CCMH during COVID-19 pandemic

SickKids CCMH staffers Rebecca Hsiang (on screen) and Joanne Wilson demonstrating a videoconference therapy session By Jane Kitchen The mental health teams at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and SickKids Centre for Community Mental Health (CCMH) in Toronto have had a rapid advance into virtual care in response to COVID-19. SickKids TeleLink Mental Health Program, SickKids CCMH and SickKids are part of the SickKids mental health enterprise dedicated to the care and treatment of children and youth with mental health disorders. “Building on the TeleLink program’s extensive experience of delivering video-based mental health services for the past two decades, virtual care is now part of the strategic plan and includes SickKids and SickKids CCMH,” says Christina Bartha, Executive Direc...

2020/05/14 Voices from DARPA #26 – The Eclectic Biotechnician

In this episode of our Voices from DARPA podcast, Eric Van Gieson, a program manager since 2017 in the agency’s Biological Technologies Office (BTO), recounts how a boyhood fascination with DARPA ultimately led to his current role overseeing a portfolio of envelope-pushing programs. These include a program that seeks new diagnostic tools for perhaps the earliest-possible detection of exposure to pathogens, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19; an effort to identify and leverage the biomolecular bases underlying optimal performance in such roles as piloting aircraft or participating in special forces missions; research toward new personal-protection technologies that combine advanced featherweight fabrics with designed, bio-based agents applied directly to the body where the...

2020/05/13 Gamebreaker AI Effort Gets Under Way

DARPA recently selected nine teams for the Gamebreaker Artificial Intelligence (AI) Exploration program, which held its virtual kickoff meeting May 5. Gamebreaker seeks to develop and apply AI to existing open-world video games to quantitatively assess game balance, identify underlying parameters that significantly contribute to balance, and explore new capabilities, tactics, and rule modifications that are most destabilizing to the game. The commercial gaming industry has a long-standing interest in maintaining game balance as balanced games are typically more entertaining, and market pressures help drive their development. In future conflicts, DoD investment is designed to maximize imbalance to create an advantage or to seek equilibrium when an adversary is seeking an advantage. “If we c...

2020/05/11 Blackjack Focuses on Risk Reduction Flights and Simulations to Prepare for Full Demonstration

In partnership with the U.S. Space Force and Space Development Agency, DARPA’s Blackjack program is targeting flights to low-Earth orbit (LEO) later this year and 2021. Using a series of small risk reduction satellites, the program aims to demonstrate advanced technology for satellite constellation autonomy and space mesh networks. Blackjack seeks to develop and validate critical elements of global high-speed autonomous networks in LEO, proving a capability that could provide the Department of Defense with highly connected, resilient, and persistent overhead coverage. The upcoming demonstration flights are all planned as rideshares, catching a ride to LEO on a launch with other missions. The first demonstration, Mandrake 1, is a cubesat that will carry supercomputer processing chips. Mandr...

2020/05/11 DARPA Kicks Off Program to Advance Quantum Computing

DARPA has selected seven university and industry teams for the first phase of the Optimization with Noisy Intermediate-Scale Quantum devices (ONISQ) program. Phase 1 of the program began in March and will last 18 months. ONISQ aims to exploit quantum information processing before universal fault-tolerant quantum computers are realized, which isn’t expected for many years. The program is pursuing a hybrid concept that combines intermediate-sized quantum devices (hundreds to thousands of quantum bits, or qubits) with classical computing systems to solve a particularly challenging set of problems known as combinatorial optimization. ONISQ seeks to demonstrate a quantitative advantage of quantum information processing by leapfrogging the performance of classical-only systems in solving optimiz...

Unprecedented collaboration: Will the way we work together be forever changed for the better?

The critical care ventilator (left) and the portable version. It’s easy to look back at the days before COVID-19 with a sense of nostalgia. They may only have been a few months back, but they are already looking like “the good old days” compared to the health crisis unfolding now. But not everything was easier before the pandemic. If there is a silver lining in these challenging times, it’s that Canadians are now collaborating in ways that were more difficult — or even unheard of — before the COVID-19 pandemic, with a greater appreciation of the contributions of different stakeholders. One obvious example of enhanced collaboration is the use of digital technologies that enable doctors to safely connect with patients virtually and to monitor them remotely. These technologies have been avail...

2020/05/06 Researchers on DARPA’s Brandeis Program Enhance Privacy Protections for Android Applications

From navigation to remote banking, mobile device users rely on a variety of applications to streamline daily tasks, communicate, and dramatically increase productivity. While exceedingly useful, the ecosystem of third-party applications utilizes a number of sensors – microphones, GPS, pedometers, cameras – and user interactions to collect data used to enable functionality. Troves of sensitive personal data about users are accessible to these applications and as defense and commercial mobile device users become increasingly reliant on the technology, there are growing concerns around the challenge this creates for preserving user privacy. Under DARPA’s Brandeis program, a team of researchers led by Two Six Labs and Raytheon BBN Technologies have developed a platform called Privacy Enhanceme...