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.
Back in late 2010, MIT Media Lab announced that it was working on technology that would allow a camera to see around corners and image objects that were never in its direct line of sight. Now, the lab has released a video explaining exactly how they do this and showing the technology in action.
In an effort to outmaneuver the law enforcement entities that have pursued its swashbuckling operation across the land, the Pirate Bay is looking to the skies. In a blog post yesterday, the Bay’s MrSpock said that in an effort to keep its front machines--the ones that redirect your illicit traffic to servers in a secret location--one step ahead of the law, the organization is going to try to build a network of traffic-relaying aerial drones.
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.
Siri’s ability to speak and recognize various languages is impressive, but Microsoft is not to be outdone. Microsoft Research labs has demoed a new prototype software that could be the next big step toward a so-called “universal translator” device, one that can instantly flip one language into another and back again so a conversation can be carried on between two people even when neither can understand the other’s language.
The future of seaports could be not having any seaports at all. At least that’s the vision of Jeremy Wiley, founder of Tethered Air. Wiley envisions a system of robot cranes tethered to huge heavy-lifting balloons that could deployed anywhere to ferry shipping containers or other heavy cargo from ship to shore, or vice versa. Such systems would be relatively inexpensive, he says, and could create a near-instant seaport just about anywhere water meets the land.
NASA may no longer possess a reusable vehicle for traveling to and from low earth orbit, but the United States Air Force has all but established a permanent presence up there. Maybe you've forgotten about the X-37B, the USAF's pilotless, reusable space plane that's been in orbit since launching on March 5, 2011, but it's still up there making laps.