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This Boston Dynamics Designed Robot Is One Step Closer To Learning Karate

In science fiction it’s a rather well established fact that robots and artificial intelligence are going to take over the world and either wipe us off the face of the Earth or enslave us and use us for some nefarious purposes. Those evil bastards. And now, as you can see in this video, they can do karate, or at least a damn fine impression of the crane technique from Karate Kid. The balance is impressive. And terrifying. But no robot will ever replace Ralph Macchio.

Just a heads up, there’s a super shrill, obnoxious mechanical whine in the background of this footage, so you might want to watch it with the sound off, or at least pre-turn it down. This guy is not particularly stealthy, at least not yet, and isn’t going to be sneaking up on anyone anytime soon.

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Military Implant May Help Your Body Heal More Efficiently

ElectRXBuffy can do it. The True Blood vampires can do it. Wolverine can do it. So it’s high time to figure out a way for real humans to heal themselves—that is, faster and better than we naturally can.

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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DARPA And Google Developing A Modular Military Smartphone

military phoneGiven 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.

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Guided Bullets Change Direction In Mid-Flight

WantedGuided bullets have figured prominently in a great many sci-fi films over the years. There’s all sorts of bullet-bending in movies like Wanted, and KISS bass player, and long-tongue-haver, Gene Simmons even puts them to use when hunting down Tom Selleck in the Michael Crichton-directed Runaway in 1984. They are also one of the latest genre inventions to make the leap from science fiction to science fact, and are another tool to allow people with less than stellar aim to become competent snipers right alongside of their more eagle-eyed comrades.

DARPA—of course it’s DARPA—is working on hard at work on a project called EXACTO, which, though it is a rather adorable acronym, stands for Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordinance. The full name sounds way more scary and sinister, and way less cuddly. These new projectiles will allow shooters to course correct bullets in mid-flight to account for any changes that may occur in the relatively short time span that elapses between muzzle and target.

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DARPA Developing Brain Implants To Treat PTSD

dbsHey, look! It’s a DARPA program that isn’t designed to create the ultimate super-soldier! Actually, that’s debatable. Regardless, here’s a DARPA initiative that theoretically could benefit folks who aren’t embroiled in combat: developing brain implants for treating mental conditions such as PTSD.

The effort leverages recent research and success in deep brain stimulation, which has been shown to successfully treat Parkinson’s, among other conditions. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) involves implanting electrodes that deliver electrical impulses to affected areas of the brain. For Parkinson’s patients, a neurostimulator, which is similar to a pacemaker but is usually near the patient’s collarbone, regulates the impulses sent by the electrodes. DARPA’s approach would be similar in terms of the use of electrodes, but it also seeks to implant a chip, rather than a neurostimulator, to send and monitor the resulting signals and data to and from the brain and computers used by researchers.

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Star Wars Bionic Arm Approved

lukeDespite all the recent breakthroughs in prosthetics technology, I can’t say I’m one of those people who would elect to amputate a limb in order to receive a stronger cybernetic one (although exoskeletons are a nifty solution, as they allow people to keep their natural limbs but add strength-enhancing technology when they want). Still, I can’t help but wonder how many people would consider opting for a bionic arm modeled on the one Luke Skywalker receives after Darth Vader sends his hand flying.

The FDA recently approved the DEKA arm, the first prosthetic arm able to perform movements controlled by electrical signals emitted by muscles near the device. The arm system contains EMG (electromyogram) electrodes that send electrical signals from the muscles to a processor that converts them into as many as 10 different and simultaneous movements. A 2012 study also demonstrated the ability for wearers to use neural implants to control the device via their brains. One of the studies submitted to the FDA involved 36 veterans who were outfitted with the arms, 90% of whom experienced abilities beyond those of their current prostheses.

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