Tag Archives | DARPA

DARPA is implanting chips in soldiers’ brains

There’s a sudden rash of stories about DARPA‘s bizarre projects, and this one from Fusion may be the most disturbing:

For decades, DARPA, the secretive research arm of the Department of Defense, has dreamed of turning soldiers into cyborgs. And now it’s finally happening. The agency has funded projects that involve implanting chips into soldiers’ brains that they hope will enhance performance on the battlefield and repair traumatized brains once the fog of war has lifted.

brain power

“Of the 2.5 million Americans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, 300,000 of them came home with traumatic brain injury,” journalist Annie Jacobsen told NPR. “DARPA initiated a series of programs to help cognitive functioning, to repair some of this damage. And those programs center around putting brain chips inside the tissue of the brain.”

In her new book about the history of DARPA, “The Pentagon’s Brain,” Jacobsen writes that scientists are already testing “neuroprosthetics” brain implants, but that despite her multiple appeals to the Defense Department, she was not allowed to interview any of the “brain-wounded warriors.”

However, Defense One, an online magazine that covers the military, reported last year on DARPA’s work on brain chips to treat PTSD, and said that DARPA was not yet in the testing phase.

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DARPA Investing In Genetic Engineering

Is there anything more scary than an extremely well-funded government agency investing in projects to mess with DNA? The Broad Institute has announced DARPA’s investment in The Foundry:

A facility at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and MIT that aims to achieve the full potential of engineering biology has received a five-year, $32 million contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The Foundry, started by MIT biological engineering professor Christopher Voigt and Broad Technology Labs (BTL) director Robert Nicol, is the result of a partnership between BTL and the Synthetic Biology Center of MIT, of which Voigt is co-director. The Foundry enables the rapid design, testing, and fabrication of large sequences of genetic information so they can be assembled like building blocks for myriad medical, industrial, and agricultural applications.

“Society relies on many products from the natural world that have intricate material and chemical structures, from chemicals such as antibiotics to materials like wood,” says Voigt.

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DARPA Developing Human Bio-Factories to Brew Vaccines

Depending on whether or not you trust the US Government, DARPA’s plan to create vaccines in what Discovery News terms “human bio-factories” will either be encouraging or highly disturbing news:

The next factory for lifesaving drugs could be the human body itself.


Scientists are developing a new vaccine-making method that co-opts the human body’s ability to quickly create antibodies, its main weaponry for fighting disease, say researchers with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The new method of vaccine production would involve giving the body instructions for making certain antibodies. Because the body would be its own bioreactor, the vaccine could be produced much faster than traditional methods and the result would be a higher level of protection, said Col. Daniel Wattendorf, a clinical geneticist with DARPA, the branch of the U.S. Department of Defense charged with developing new technologies for the military.

Every year people who swear by them line up for their annual flu shot.

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DARPA: Paralyzed Man Becomes First Person to Feel Physical Sensations in Prosthetic Connected to Brain

METIS Bionic Prosthetis by C. Darius Delaunay-Driquert
Under DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics program, a paralyzed 8-year-old man “has become the first person to be able to ‘feel’ physical sensations through a prosthetic hand directly connected to his brain.”

DARPA’s press release:

A 28-year-old who has been paralyzed for more than a decade as a result of a spinal cord injury has become the first person to be able to “feel” physical sensations through a prosthetic hand directly connected to his brain, and even identify which mechanical finger is being gently touched.

The advance, made possible by sophisticated neural technologies developed under DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics points to a future in which people living with paralyzed or missing limbs will not only be able to manipulate objects by sending signals from their brain to robotic devices, but also be able to sense precisely what those devices are touching.

“We’ve completed the circuit,” said DARPA program manager Justin Sanchez. “Prosthetic limbs that can be controlled by thoughts are showing great promise, but without feedback from signals traveling back to the brain it can be difficult to achieve the level of control needed to perform precise movements.

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Korean Robots Win The DARPA Robotics Challenge

Did you watch the DARPA Robotics Challenge? Maybe not as it was a Saturday night, but the Koreans won it, reports the New York Times:

POMONA, Calif. — A team of roboticists from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology claimed a $2 million prize on Saturday that was offered by a Pentagon research agency for developing a mobile robot capable of operating in hazardous environments.


Twenty-five teams of university and corporate roboticists competed for the prize, which was first given in 2012 by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The robots were graded on their ability to complete eight tasks, including driving a vehicle, opening a door, operating a portable drill, turning a valve and climbing stairs, all in the space of an hour.

The Korean victory is a validation of the work of JunHo Oh, the designer of the Hubo family of humanoid robots that he has developed since 2002.

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DARPA’s Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) Magic Bullets

The boffins at DARPA have come up with a pretty cool idea – bullets that magically adjust course to hit their target. Here’s what they say about the video they’ve released:

DARPA’s Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) program, which developed a self-steering bullet to increase hit rates for difficult, long-distance shots, completed in February its most successful round of live-fire tests to date. An experienced shooter using the technology demonstration system repeatedly hit moving and evading targets. Additionally, a novice shooter using the system for the first time hit a moving target.

This video shows EXACTO rounds maneuvering in flight to hit targets that are moving and accelerating. EXACTO’s specially designed ammunition and real-time optical guidance system help track and direct projectiles to their targets by compensating for weather, wind, target movement and other factors that can impede successful hits.

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DARPA’s Solution to Ebola (and all other Infectious Diseases)

It’s tempting to think of DARPA as the US Government’s evil technology agency, but Alexis Madrigal has discovered one DARPA program that might just be an incredible solution to infectious diseases, reporting for Fusion:

Saving the world from Ebola suddenly sounds so simple, as the solution spills from Colonel Dan Wattendorf’s mouth, up on the stage in the windowless banquet hall of this Marriott hotel south of San Francisco.

“We’re going to take the genetic code and put it into a format where you go to your drug store or doctor and get a shot in the arm,” Wattendorf told a room full of medical researchers and technologists. “There’s a low-cost of goods, no cold chain, and we would produce the correct antibody in [any] individual directly.”


Wattendorf, a clean-cut, angular triathlete, is a program manager for the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the military’s far-out research wing. On this day, he’s speaking at a DARPA-sponsored conference called Biology Is Technology.

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DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals: 25 Teams Compete For $3.5 Million

So what kind of robot is DARPA looking for?

The international robotics community has turned out in force for the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) Finals, a competition of robots and their human supervisors to be held June 5-6, 2015, at Fairplex in Pomona, Calif., outside of Los Angeles. In the competition, human-robot teams will be tested on capabilities that could enable them to provide assistance in future natural and man-made disasters. Fourteen new teams from Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, the People’s Republic of China, South Korea, and the United States qualified to join 11 previously announced teams. In total, 25 teams will now vie for a chance to win one of three cash prizes totaling $3.5 million at the DRC Finals.

DARPA robosimian.jpg

“We’re excited to see so much international interest in the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals,” said Gill Pratt, program manager for the DRC. “The diverse participation indicates not only a general interest in robotics, but also the priority many governments are placing on furthering robotic technology.

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DARPA Speaks

DARPA HeliplaneWell more accurately, Dr. Arati Prabhakar, the Director of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) speaks, answering some questions for Engadget:

What is DARPA, and what is your job as director?

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is an agency of the Department of Defense with a very specific mission: to make seminal investments in breakthrough technologies for national security. We are explicitly a “projects” agency — we identify technical capabilities that don’t exist today, but that we think could be made real with the right kind of concerted effort; we pick individuals to lead the charge toward achieving those bold and sometimes even implausible goals; and we provide a carefully balanced mix of funding, freedom and insistence upon meeting milestones along the way. If progress does not continue apace or failure appears inevitable, we drop the effort, shift our focus and move on, in the recognition that when one bets on breakthroughs, one will sometimes lose.

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