An ambitious effort for an interstellar travel planning organization officially kicked off this week, after DARPA awarded $500,000 to form the 100-Year Starship initiative. Former astronaut Mae Jemison, whose proposal was selected earlier this year, will lead the new independent organization. The goal is to ensure that the capability for human interstellar travel exists within the next 100 years.
After roughly eight months of crunching the data, DARPA has released its official report on exactly what happened to its Falcon Hypersonic Test Vehicle 2 (HTV-2), the Mach 20 test vehicle it launched into the atmosphere last summer only to lose contact with it nine minutes later. The conclusion: HTV-2 was moving so blisteringly fast that it tore right out of its own skin.
If you fear the robot apocalypse, perhaps your day would be much improved if you just moved on. Boston Dynamics’ PETMAN robot, developed for DARPA, is getting more humanoid-like by the day it seems, and here we see it--legs, torso, arms, and all--negotiating staircases, running on a treadmill, and even hitting the floor for some pushups. All this strength training appears to be doing PETMAN some good.
DARPA is poised to launch a new Grand Challenge for a humanoid robot, according to robotics insiders — and the result could be a souped-up metal soldier running alongside BigDog, driving an ATV, unlocking doors and clearing a path to safety for its human counterparts. There’s no official agency announcement yet, but robotics companies heard all about it at a recent industry day.
Generally when PopSci writes about DARPA we do so with enthusiasm, as the Pentagon’s far-out research arm tends to prod at the edges of what seems possible, even when it fails spectacularly. But when it fails institutionally, we have to acknowledge that even the storied Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is at a fundamental level a bureaucracy prone to the same problems and inefficiencies as any other bureaucracy.
PopSci’s favorite DARPA head turned Google exec has done her turn at TED, and the video has just hit the wires. Titled “From Mach-20 Glider to Hummingbird Drone,” Dugan’s theme of discouraging the fear of failure is a retrospective on DARPA’s technological milestones and how the nerds at DARPA reached them by believing in impossible things.
Warfighters have plenty of eyes in the sky, with a massive drone fleet and a satellite network that can spot their locations on the ground. But satellites are only helpful when they’re overhead, and battlefield situations can’t wait for orbital physics. To solve this problem, DARPA wants a swarm of cheap satellites nestled between the big ones up above and the aerial drones down below.
From the agency that created the Internet to the company that arguably controls it — there's some nice symmetry in the news that DARPA chief Regina Dugan is heading over to Google. She is leaving the defense agency to assume a senior executive position at the web giant, according to DARPA.
Bad news for long-term receptionists: DARPA's ARM (Autonomous Robotic Manipulation) robot can perform a whopping 18 different reception-ready tasks, from stapling to answering the phone to...turning on a lamp? Grasping things? Also it can't speak, or redirect calls, really, but it can drill a hole in a piece of wood, which I'm not entirely sure I can do, so it's an easy shoo-in for our incredibly prestigious Robot of the Week award. Congratulations! Watch the video after the jump.
How quickly can an organically grown network of manhunters find five fugitives in five different countries? Later this month, the U.S. State Department aims to find out. The Tag Challenge will pay $5,000 to the people who find all of them first.
Here at PopSci, we’ve been fascinated by Boston Dynamics’ Big Dog ever since it was an adorable robotic puppy that couldn’t even open its eyes. Now that the technology is all grown up, repackaged, and rechristened the Legged Squad Support System (or LS3), its eyes are very much open--and fixed firmly on the soldier in front of it.
The augmented reality future we were long ago promised has been slow to come around, perhaps restrained most by the basic biology of our own eyes, which are unable to properly see detailed images placed very near the pupils.
Having contributed in large part to the Internet’s very existence, DARPA is now setting out to make its secure networks more secure. But rather than relying upon the conventional notion of a password--a complex string of letters and numerals that an individual must remember--the agency is looking to create a “cognitive fingerprint” for individuals that constantly authenticates that person for the duration of the time he or she has access to a network.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.