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2019/05/03 A Scent-Based Strategy for Preventing Mosquito Transmission of Disease

Could it be that your scent is just a bit too attractive? It is known that mosquitoes are drawn to certain human chemical odors that lead the insects to sources of food. ReVector, a new program from DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, intends to diminish that attraction — or even actively repel mosquitoes — by engineering the skin microbiome to temporarily alter chemical production. By modulating the interaction of skin-associated microbes with metabolites from the body, ReVector technologies might lower the incidence of mosquito feeding and thus reduce the opportunity for the insects to transmit diseases such as malaria, dengue, and chikungunya that reduce military readiness. ReVector addresses a persistent need among U.S. military forces to protect against insect vectors of disease. ...

2019/04/30 DARPA Tests Advanced Chemical Sensors

DARPA’s SIGMA program, which began in 2014, has demonstrated a city-scale capability for detecting radiological and nuclear threats that is now being operationally deployed. DARPA is building off this work with the SIGMA+ initiative that is focused on providing city- to region-scale detection capabilities across the full chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive threat space. DARPA initiated a SIGMA+ pilot study last year known as ChemSIGMA to provide initial data and insights into how new chemical sensors using the existing SIGMA network would function. The chemical sensor package incorporates a chemical sensor, wind sensor and communications board into a weatherproof housing. Sensors report wind readings and real-time chemical information to a central cloud-hosted suite ...

2019/04/29 With Insights from Integration Exercise, SubT Challenge Competitors Prepare for Tunnel Circuit

Nine teams hailing from four continents gathered in Idaho Springs, Colorado, the week of April 5-11, 2019, to test autonomous air and ground systems for navigating the dark, dangerous, dirty, and unpredictable underground domain. The SubT Integration Exercise, known as STIX, took place at the Colorado School of Mines’ Edgar Experimental Mine. The event provided a shakeout opportunity for competitors in advance of the Tunnel Circuit in August, the first of three subdomains that teams will tackle in DARPA’s Subterranean Challenge. [embedded content] The teams were divided into three groups. Each group had one day to experiment with their various systems during multiple runs in the mine, followed by a second day in which each team attempted a one-hour mock, scored run. Teams could earn points...

2019/04/10 Three Teams Qualify to Compete in DARPA Launch Challenge

The DARPA Launch Challenge aims to fundamentally shift military space capabilities to enable on-demand, flexible, and responsive launch of small payloads. Three competitors successfully completed the qualification phase and will attempt to launch to low-Earth orbit from two different U.S. locations within a matter of weeks. Teams will receive notice of the first launch site a few weeks prior to launch and exact details on the payload and intended orbit just days before launch. DARPA is targeting both launches for early 2020. The qualifying competitors are Vector Launch; Virgin Orbit, which entered the competition via its wholly owned subsidiary, VOX Space; and a third company, which has requested anonymity for the first few months of the Challenge. DARPA awarded a $400,000 prize to each co...

2019/04/05 DARPA Announces Second Annual ERI Summit

Since its official announcement on June 1, 2017, DARPA’s Electronics Resurgence Initiative (ERI) has sought to advance the development of a specialized, secure, and heavily automated electronics industry. ERI – a five-year, upwards of $1.5B investment to enable far-reaching improvements in electronics performance – has fostered collaborations among the commercial electronics sector, defense industrial base, and university researchers. As ERI enters its second year, DARPA seeks to reconvene the electronics community at the second annual ERI Summit in Detroit, Michigan, July 15–17. The Summit will allow electronics innovators to share their vision for the future, review technical progress, and provide input into future research directions. Last year’s ERI Summit gathered nearly 900 members o...

2019/04/01 OFFSET Seeks Proposals to Accelerate Swarm Tactics in Virtual Environments

DARPA is soliciting creative proposals for the fourth swarm sprint in its OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program. OFFSET envisions swarms of 250 collaborative autonomous systems providing critical capabilities to ground units in urban areas where challenges such as tall buildings, tight spaces, and limited sight lines constrain essential communications, sensing, maneuverability, and autonomous operations. The swarm sprints aim to encourage rapid innovation and continuous incorporation of breakthrough technologies. Each of the five core sprints emphasizes one of the key OFFSET thrust areas – swarm tactics, swarm autonomy, human-swarm teaming, virtual environment, and physical testbed – to ultimately enable cross-cutting breakthroughs in swarm systems capabilities. [embedded conten...

2019/03/25 DARPA Seeks to Make Scalable On-Chip Security Pervasive

For the past decade, cybersecurity threats have moved from high in the software stack to progressively lower levels of the computational hierarchy, working their way towards the underlying hardware. The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) has driven the creation of a rapidly growing number of accessible devices and a multitude of complex chip designs needed to enable them. With this rapid growth comes increased opportunity for economic and nation-state adversaries alike to shift their attention to chips that enable complex capabilities across commercial and defense applications. The consequences of a hardware cyberattack are significant as a compromise could potentially impact not millions, but billions of devices. Despite growing recognition of the issue, there are no common tools, metho...

2019/03/22 In the Sky and on the Ground, Collaboration Vital to DARPA’s CODE for Success

On a brisk February morning in the Yuma, Arizona, desert, a swarm of unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with DARPA’s Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment system, or CODE, successfully carried out mission objectives, even when communications were offline and GPS was unavailable. One-by-one, six RQ-23 Tigersharks lifted off, fitted with an array of sensors onboard. Next to the runway at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground, the mission team inside a small operations center tracked the aircraft and as many as 14 additional virtual planes on an aerial map. The capstone demonstration paired program performer Raytheon’s software and autonomy algorithms and Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory’s White Force Network to create a realistic, live/virtual/constructive test envir...

2019/03/21 Using AI to Build Better Human-Machine Teams

The inability of artificial intelligence (AI) to represent and model human partners is the single biggest challenge preventing effective human-machine teaming today. Current AI agents are able to respond to commands and follow through on instructions that are within their training, but are unable to understand intentions, expectations, emotions, and other aspects of social intelligence that are inherent to their human counterparts. This lack of understanding stymies efforts to create safe, efficient, and productive human-machine collaboration. “As humans, we are able to infer unobservable states, such as situational beliefs and goals, and use those to predict the subsequent actions, reactions, or needs of another individual,” said Dr. Joshua Elliott, a program manager in DARPA’s Informatio...

2019/03/21 Designing Chips for Real Time Machine Learning

The current generation of machine learning (ML) systems would not have been possible without significant computing advances made over the past few decades. The development of the graphics-processing unit (GPU) was critical to the advancement of ML as it provided new levels of compute power needed for ML systems to process and train on large data sets. As the field of artificial intelligence looks towards advancing beyond today’s ML capabilities, pushing into the realms of “learning” in real-time, new levels of computing are required. Highly specialized Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) show promise in meeting the physical size, weight, and power (SWaP) requirements of advanced ML applications, such as autonomous systems and 5G. However, the high cost of design and implementa...

2019/03/19 DARPA Launches Social Media Platform to Accelerate R&D

DARPA aims to apply the power of social networks to research and development via a novel social media platform purpose-built to quicken the pace of U.S. technology development. Polyplexus, which was recently launched as a public platform, is designed to increase access to scientific evidence and accelerate hypothesis development, research proposal generation, and research sponsor engagement. The platform’s real-time interactions and functionality are designed to dramatically shorten the time between the emergence of concepts and the submission of worthy proposals. The platform facilitates connections among experts across academic disciplines so they can propel novel research opportunities together. Beta-launched for academics only in 2018, Polyplexus is now open to the broader researc...

2019/03/12 Progress on Lifelong Learning Machines Shows Potential for Bio-Inspired Algorithms

Today’s machine learning systems are restricted by their inability to continuously learn or adapt as they encounter new situations; their programs are fixed after training, leaving them unable to react to new, unforeseen circumstances once they are fielded. Adding new information to cover programming deficits overwrites the existing training set. With current technology, this requires taking the system offline and retraining it on a dataset that incorporates the new information. It is a long and arduous process that DARPA’s Lifelong Learning Machines (L2M) program is working to overcome. “The L2M program’s prime objective is to develop systems that can learn continuously during execution and become increasingly expert while performing tasks, are subject to safety limits, and capable of app...