I quite like stressing the fact that most major technological advances of this decade are either rooted in or inspired by the military. Without military funded technological innovations we will pretty much be stuck at ‘just few miles away from the stone age’. DARPA has lots of technological obligations to its benefactor nation – the United States, but of all those obligations, the one it does pretty much well is developing extremely scary gadgets and weapons. But hey, DARPA is not all bad, though some geeks make them look like some technology villain but the actually develop(ed) some of the best human oriented (friendly) gadgets around.
Ever heard of Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple’s SIRI? Well, forget what Tim cook or Bill Gates’s agile successor may have told you, you’ve got DARPA to thank for those virtual assistant. DARPA’s Speech Understanding Research (SUR) program played significant role in the speech recognition technology that plays a vital role in both virtual assistants. Despite being part of the pentagon, DARPA operates independently from the United States Defense department’s military research division .DARPA divides its personnel into groups lead by managers and supports them with $10 to $40 million dollar in funding from an almost $3 billion budget. The agency had $2.78 billion and $2.91 billion for 2014 and 2015 fiscal year respectively, here are some of its most and futuristic gadgets:
Night Vision Smartphones
Seeing at night is cool, but its almost an exclusive reserve for soldiers and other security personnel because they are critical to the success of their operations at night. Critical as it may, night vision gadgets definitely doesn’t come cheap and the really on bulky goggles to start with. If you are not among the billionaire or at least the millionaire’s club you might want to forget getting one those (am exaggerating here, but believe me, stuff cost quite a lot). However, luckily for everyone DARPA is working on a device that will make Smartphones see in the dark or more like smarphones that can be used to see in the dark. The device is a low cost (not so low) heat sensitive camera called the “stacked modular architecture high-resolution thermal” (SMART) chip camera. It consist of a tiny camera that is sensitive to wavelengths which are normally invisible to the human eye. It renders heat sources like automobile and human body visible at night. So the next time get a hold of a smart phone that lets you see that creeping villain at night, I guess you know who to thank for it.
Location Tracking Boots
We probably all use GPS for guidance and navigation, these days , it is a critical feature in our smart phones and tablets. Bad news is GPS doesn’t work inside buildings and the system can be easily compromised. A team of researchers are developing a GPS-Free positioning system that keeps track of soldiers via their boots. Now, that’s new considering that the GPS is almost synonymous with modern day position system, but there is always a first time for everything I guess. Unlike the GPS, the system can work underground, inside buildings or in densely forested environments. Known as the micro-inertial navigation technology (MINT) , the system consists of miniature radar and inertial measurement sensors strapped to the wearer’s boot. Though the gadgets are currently developed military use, it won’t take long before the technology starts showing up in civilian gadgets for civil use.
Excalibur Laser weapons
In wars there a lot of collateral damages, even some laws and treaties make room for them, but it seems DARPA has got a good idea. It’s not one of those weapons you may expect to see in the shelves of your local gun store anytime soon, but you are allowed to keep dreaming. These experimental weapons will be ten times lighter than existing high-power laser systems currently in use and is small and efficient enough to be used in combat.
Proto 2 is a mind controlled prosthetic arm. It is DARPA’s $55 million funded pet gadget that comes complete with hands and articulated fingers that can perform 25 joint motions. Though DARPA is already working on ways to further shrink the gadget and develop more efficient motors but the dexterity of the gadget already approaches that of a real arm which can perform 30 joint motions. Each joint brings together two lightweight “bones” made from carbon fiber and Aluminum alloys. The shoulder and wrist are capable of roll, the elbow can flex and the thumbs and fingers can bend at each knuckle. The average reader may not really appreciate this, but for the disabled without arms, proto 2 is a critical milestone of mind controlled mechanical arms.
In modern warfare the deployment of electronic gadgets for communication and remote sensing quite rampant. Large amount of vital data is either stored or transmitted through this gadgets. Problems however arises when critical operational data falls into wrong hands when this electronics are lost during missions. To solve this complications, DARPA developed technology that makes electronics dissolve on command. The technology which is called vanishing programmable resources (VAPR), offer performance on par with commercial, off-the-shelf electronics, butcould be programmed to dissolve if they fell into enemy hands or were no longer nneeded DARPA officials hinted.