0

DARPA And Google Developing A Modular Military Smartphone

fb share tweet share

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.

0

DARPA Developing New Biotech Unit

fb share tweet share

darpa soldierSome government agencies struggle with budget constraints, while others reap the benefit of prioritization. DARPA clearly falls in the latter camp, having received a budget boost from the Pentagon. A hefty chunk of that money will go toward establishing a Biological Technologies Office for bolstering national security.

DARPA has previously dabbled in biotech, but the new office makes it a priority and will expand on the existing offices of Defense Sciences and Microsystems Technology. The mission of the Biotechnical Technologies Office (BTO) is to “foster, demonstrate, and transition breakthrough fundamental research, discoveries, and applications that integrate biology, engineering, and computer science for national security,” and includes “human-machine interfaces, microbes as production platforms, and deep exploration of the impact of evolving ecologies.” This opens up a host of different directions and technologies for DARPA to pursue.

0

The Military Could Use The Holodeck To Prepare Soldiers

fb share tweet share

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.

0

Navy Plans To Step Up Sonar Exercises Despite Negative Effects On Marine Life

fb share tweet share

aquaticEarlier this month reports of mass strandings of pilot whales in the Everglades were particularly heartbreaking. Eleven whales died and dozens more were trapped in shallow waters. After days of trying to help the whales, rescue crews showed up one morning and couldn’t find them, which suggests that they may have found a way to return to open waters (either that or they were beamed up by aliens). At least for me, there aren’t many images as heartbreaking as ones of these majestic creatures flopping around in the shallows. These strandings are more common than they used to be, at least in part, scientists think, due to the military’s use of sonar. Despite that, the U.S. Navy has announced plans to step up their sonar testing over the next five years.

Some species of whales, such as beaked whales and blue whales, are extremely sensitive to sonar. Studies conducted in Southern California noted that these whale species, both of which are endangered, stop feeding and flee when they hear recordings that mimic sonar. Scientists were surprised to learn that blue whales are so sensitive to sonar — given their enormous size, scientists figured that high-pitched sounds wouldn’t affect them, but that’s not the case. Given that whales and dolphins communicate via sonar, it makes sense that they’d be able to pick up all kinds of frequencies.

0

Soldiers’ Emotional Attachments To Robots May Affect Their Decisions

fb share tweet share

Number5Robots have already begun to change human life in myriad ways, both measurable and immeasurable. People have domestic, social, romantic, and sexual relationships with robots, and the extent to which they’re integrated into the fabric of life will only increase. That inevitably means that humans will become more familiar with their robotic counterparts, and even though they’re not sentient and can’t feel emotion, humans often develop attachments to them. We get attached to computers, cars, and other trinkets, so it seems only natural that we’d get cozy with machines that serve, help, or otherwise make our lives easier.

Developing attachments to robots isn’t necessarily problematic, so long as we can hold it together when our Roombas stop working. But emotional attachments to robots that serve alongside humans in dangerous situations might actually affect the outcomes. The use of robots for police and military endeavors, including search and rescue, is at the forefront of robotic development. And while some people object to the widespread use of robots (especially drones and autonomous machines) in battle, others believe it’s the best way to reduce human casualties in war. But that advantage could be mitigated if a sense of loyalty, protectiveness, or camaraderie changes the way people act toward robot helpers.

0

TED Talk Warns Of The Dangers Of Autonomous Robots Making Lethal Decisions

fb share tweet share

Taranis DroneAdvancements in robotics occur at such a breathtaking pace that it’s difficult to keep up. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in warfare. Right now, military drones require communication and commands from humans. In short, the robots can’t make their own decisions. Yet.

Daniel Suarez, a science fiction writer and software developer, recently delivered a TED Talk where he argued that fully autonomous military robots are coming, and that we need to start preparing now. What Suarez fears most is that autonomous military robots will take decision-making out of the hands of humans, and thus, take the human out of war, which would change warfare entirely.

Per a 2012 directive from the U.S. Department of Defense, a human must be present in all lethal decisions, which effective bans the U.S. military from using autonomous weapons. But Suarez worries that the choice to keep life-and-death decisions out of the hands of robots will change. He lays out an argument in which he identifies three main forces threatening to shift decision-making from humans to robots.