I’m sure you could guess who’s behind the current project to boost humans’ self-healing abilities. Yep, it’s DARPA, who else? Their ElectRx program “aims to explore neuromodulation of organ functions to help the human body heal itself.” DARPA’s idea, essentially, is for an implant that functions like a pacemaker, monitoring the body’s functions and providing whatever stimulus is necessary to improve them, particularly as it pertains to healing after an illness or injury.
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Given how susceptible smartphones are to hacking, if the military switches from radio to those devices, it will need to take measures to become more secure, among other things, and load them with apps and utilities that soldiers can use on the battlefield. The Institute for Software Integration Systems (ISIS—not to be confused with the other ISIS you’ve been reading about on the news these days) is working on just that as part of DARPA’s Transformative Apps program, which seeks to “develop a diverse array of militarily-relevant software applications using an innovative new development and acquisition process.” The problem is that TransApp funding is about to run out, which means DARPA and ISIS are looking for other projects that might help them fulfill the military’s app needs. Right now, the frontrunner seems to be Google’s (formerly Motorola’s) Project Ara.
The concept behind Project Ara is that of a modular smartphone with an open hardware platform that will cost somewhere around $50. It began with Motorola’s ATAP (Advanced Technologies and Products) program, which Google retained after it sold the company. At the helm of ATAP is a former DARPA director, who has helped with the cohesion between ATAP, ISIS, and DARPA to create a modular phone that can be assembled and changed on the fly as determined by the military’s needs.
In the latest case of life imitating art, the United States government is working to create a real life Iron Man suit. Watching Marvel’s three standalone movies, plus The Avengers, we’ve all sat there and thought about how cool it would be to fly around in one of those bad boys, and apparently so did the military. Now they’re asking Hollywood for a helping hand.
The Wall Street Journal (or the Verge if you’re not one to pony up for WSJ’s subscription fee, and how many of us do that?) is reporting some new details of the suits, known as Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS, an acronym that is straight out of a comic book. They’ve brought in the help of companies like Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and Raytheon, which makes sense, these are just the kind of private contractors that you would expect to be involved in a project like this.
SpaceX seems to be taking the world—make that the universe—by storm. The private contractor hauls cargo to the ISS, and despite an initial launch glitch, it has begun taking communications satellites into orbit. The company is also working on manned flight capabilities, with the long-term goal to get people to Mars. There seems to be no aspect of space travel SpaceX isn’t involved in, and now it’s poised to launch missions for the U.S. military.
This week, Elon Musk told the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense that he’s ready to get in the running for Air Force contracts based on the strength of theFalcon rocket. “Frankly, if our rockets are good enough for NASA, why are they not good enough for the Air Force?” Musk says. Fair point, though NASA has different requirements for its contracts.
A few weeks ago, Bill McGoldrick, Syfy‘s V.P. of original programming, stated his intention to turn the network into something beyond a place for impossible sea creatures to get caught up in intense weather patterns. His vision is for a future filled with the genre’s top minds turning great ideas into series. While there are zero guarantees on how this will turn out, McGoldrick is making good on his goals by acquiring the rights to the DC/Vertigo comic DMZ, from writer Brian Wood and artist Riccardo Burchielli. The network is already bringing in big talent to develop it. Through their deal with Warner Bros. TV, former Mad Men executive producers André and Maria Jacquemetton will partner with Gravity producer David Heyman in an attempt to spin this war-torn dystopia into cable gold.
First published in 2005, DMZ was inspired in part by the volatile aftermath of 9/11. Set in a near-future where the country has split into two factions—the standard U.S. and the seceded Free States of America—this becomes the setting for a second civil war. The titular demilitarized zone is Manhattan, now only a shell of what it once was, with 1/4 of its population still intact, the majority of which is comprised of the poor and the neutral. There are also some independently war-minded folks that form DMZ militias.
It may be a while before we get to full Star Trek levels of technological advancement, but that’s not going to stop us from trying. Things like 3D printing are giving us a head start on items like replicators, and while it’ll be a while before we can beam anywhere, the military is now using a close approximation of a Holodeck to train soldiers and prepare them for combat.
Meet the Virtual Immersive Portable Environment, known as the VIPE Holodeck for short (seriously, they couldn’t come up with one more letter and call the damn thing VIPER? That’s way more badass than VIPE). Think of VIPE as a sort of steppingstone to get to where Gene Roddenberry promised that we would eventually get. We can’t use this to pick up on computer-generated hotties just yet, not like Riker did in The Next Generation, but this does have a unique set of attributes that the military is putting to good use.