DARPA: 10 Key 2012 Milestones for America's Leading-Edge R&D Agency

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2013-01-04 Print this article Print
DARPA's Four-Legged Robots Demonstration

DARPA's Four-Legged Robots Demonstration

In September, DARPA's Legged Squad Support System (LS3) program demonstrated two robotic "pack-mule" prototypes for Marine Gen. James F. Amos, and DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar. The first platform underwent its initial outdoor test earlier in the year, and matured through continual testing and improvements to the point that two functioning platforms have started to run through the paces similar to what they could one day experience carrying gear for a squad of Marines or soldiers. The goal of the LS3 program is to demonstrate that a legged robot can unburden dismounted squad members by carrying their gear, autonomously following them through rugged terrain, and interpreting verbal and visual commands.


The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is known for turning out technology that can support military systems and lead to innovations in the mainstream IT and consumer spaces, which has been common over the agency's 50-plus-year history. DARPA supplies the Department of Defense (DOD) with innovations in a similar manner that Scotland Yard's Q supplies Ian Fleming's fictional spy James Bond. Established in 1958, DARPA, then known simply as the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), is notorious for its involvement in the creation of the Internet, which began with an idea to link time-sharing computers into a national system. The agency's ARPANET was a precursor to the Internet. A primary role of DARPA has been to spark innovations that can assist in the country's war-fighting capabilities. However, over the years, many innovations that started at DARPA have found their way into the mainstream and into consumer and business uses. Among the innovations that started at DARPA and moved into the mainstream are voice-to-text software, distributed computing and other projects that helped lead to innovations like Unix, Windows NT, packet switching, TCP/IP protocols, reduced instruction set computing, massively parallel processing and synchronous optical networking. However, this slide show looks at key milestones at DARPA in 2012, including four-legged robots, virtual-reality contact lenses and hypersonic technologies. The list ranks the 10 most popular features of DARPA based on Web page views on the agency's site.


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