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Robotics Challenge

DARPA-Funded Inflatable Robotics Helps Spark Idea for Silver Screen Star

DARPA-funded research in soft, air-filled robotics helped inspire Baymax in Disney’s film Big Hero 6
The giant, balloon-like inflatable robot named Baymax in Disney’s Big Hero 6 has its roots in real-world research conducted by iRobot Corporation, Carnegie Mellon University and Otherlab under DARPA’s Maximum Mobility Manipulation (M3) program. The film’s co-director, Don Hall, has said he was inspired to cast Baymax as an air-filled, soft robot after he saw an inflatable robotic arm on a visit to Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute. Carnegie Mellon’s work in soft robotics has been supported by DARPA and the National Science Foundation. Article 
DARPA-funded research in soft, air-filled robotics helped inspire Baymax in Disney’s film Big Hero 6
POD 144

Phoenix Releases POD Interface Requirements as First Step toward Vision of “FedEx® to GEO”

DARPA’s Phoenix program has shared its Hosted POD Assembly Interface Control Document. The document provides specifications for Phoenix’s Payload Orbital Delivery (POD) system, a standardized mechanism currently in development that is intended to safely carry a wide variety of payloads to GEO aboard commercial communications satellites. PODs are designed to help take advantage of the frequency of commercial satellite launches and associated hosted payload service opportunities to enable faster and lower-cost delivery of future payloads to GEO. 

Launches of satellites for the Department of Defense (DoD) or other government agencies often cost hundreds of millions of dollars each and require scheduling years in advance for one of the handful of available slots at the nation’s limited number of launch locations. This slow, expensive process is causing a bottleneck in placing essential space assets in orbit, especially in geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO) approximately 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above the Earth. Article 

DAC 144

Wanted: Ideas for Transforming Planes into “Aircraft Carriers in the Sky”


Military air operations typically rely on large, manned, robust aircraft, but such missions put these expensive assets—and their pilots—at risk. While small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) can reduce or eliminate such risks, they lack the speed, range and endurance of larger aircraft. These complementary traits suggest potential benefits in a blended approach—one in which larger aircraft would carry, launch and recover multiple small UAS. Such an approach could greatly extend the range of UAS operations, enhance overall safety, and cost-effectively enable groundbreaking capabilities for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and other missions. Article

EZ BAA 144

DARPA’s EZ BAA Cuts Red Tape to Speed Funding of New Biotech Ideas


Many businesses and academic researchers wishing to pursue cutting-edge research ideas with government support lack the resources to navigate the burdensome paperwork requirements required to win federal grants or contracts. DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office (BTO) has created a simplified proposal process to attract and fund new ideas from just those types of innovators—those operating at the intersection of biology and technology who may never have worked with the Defense Department and may otherwise have remained too daunted to try. Article

THz World Record 144

DARPA Circuit Achieves Speeds of 1 Trillion Cycles per Second, Earns Guinness World Record

THz World Record 

Officials from Guinness World Records today recognized DARPA’s Terahertz Electronics program for creating the fastest solid-state amplifier integrated circuit ever measured. The ten-stage common-source amplifier operates at a speed of one terahertz (1012 GHz), or one trillion cycles per second—150 billion cycles faster than the existing world record of 850 gigahertz set in 2012.  Article

RE-NET October 144

Atom-width Graphene Sensors Could Provide Unprecedented Insights into Brain Structure and Function


Understanding the anatomical structure and function of the brain is a longstanding goal in neuroscience and a top priority of President Obama’s brain initiative. Electrical monitoring and stimulation of neuronal signaling is a mainstay technique for studying brain function, while emerging optical techniques—which use photons instead of electrons—are opening new opportunities for visualizing neural network structure and exploring brain functions. Electrical and optical techniques offer distinct and complementary advantages that, if used together, could offer profound benefits for studying the brain at high resolution. Combining these technologies is challenging, however, because conventional metal electrode technologies are too thick (>500 nm) to be transparent to light, making them incompatible with many optical approaches. Article 

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