Was Canada mocked one too many times at the last UN meeting/G20 powwow? Because they seem to be satisfying a serious manpower inferiority complex with plenty of…blimppower.
Let’s get these suckers some ROBOTS.
Here, robots, you take over—the Air Force is pooped. They’ve been hauling the military’s stuff all over the place for decades, and in their weary dreams, they see a cargo pallet—those platforms upon which everything from bricks to heavy machinery is packed and shipped—that can trundle around on its own, take orders from remote humans, maneuver in tight spaces, and play nicely with other equipment the Air Forces uses for shipping. And they’re determined to make that dream a reality. The Air Force recently hired two companies to come up with these magic pallets.
ReconRobotics has unveiled a reconaissance microbot that can provide anti-piracy forces with valuable surveillance information. Yep, that’s right: There are now tiny robots that board pirate ships.
Pirate-fighting forces often have to board a ship with incomplete information, not knowing exactly what’s going on below decks, how many pirates are on board, or how the ship’s crew is faring—putting them at a dangerous disadvantage. To help these forces take stock of the situation before going in, ReconRobotics is making a seafaring version of its ReconScout Throwbot, a one-pound remote-controlled robot that can be tossed into a building and zip around taking video surveillance, sending the feed back to its controller. This new bot has magnetic wheels that let it drive straight up a vertical metal wall—meaning that if anti-piracy forces toss the robot onto a ship’s hull, it can climb on board and send back valuable video recon.
If the Air Force gets its way, it will have spying eyes hidden in the very motes on its enemies’ boots. In a wonderfully vague request this week, the Air Force called for companies to design miniature drones capable of dusting targets with signal-emitting particles. They say the technology (assuming it works) could be used to identify civilians or track wildlife, which is military-speak for “we want to track and kill terrorists, not bunnies.”
According to the request, the Air Force wants a small remotely piloted aircraft, or SRPA, that would “unobtrusively distribute taggants onto moving targets.” They describe taggants as tiny electro-magnetic-emitting devices. The key part of the request is for the tracked person to not be aware that he’s being tracked. The request makes the laughable point that a swooping SRPA or tracking-device-laden paint ball probably wouldn’t be unobtrusive enough because “the target would obviously notice a swooping SRPA and likely feel the sting of the well-placed pellet.” (Either that, or you’re dealing with one very unaware terrorist.)
The latest state-of-the-art night-vision helmet should probably come with a warning label: “May cause uncontrollable laughter.” Despite its goofy, high-tech-Frankenstein appearance, the helmet actually makes a significant improvement in night vision by doubling the field of view compared to—and making that view much sharper than—the view through current goggles.
Called the High Resolution Night Vision System (HRNVS), these helmets are designed to give U.S. Air Force pilots higher-resolution images and an over-80-degree field of view, which is much better than the fuzzy, 40-degree field of view of conventional goggles. With the helmet in place, a pilot simply flips the viewers over his eyes to peer into the night. Each eyepiece is fed a synced image from two digital night-vision sensors. In addition to seeing more, the pilot also receives a crisper image because the helmet is programmed to enhance edges and contrasts, says SA Photonics, the company that developed the device. And as he spies another aircraft, a HUD-like digital overlay tells him how high it is and how fast it’s moving; and he can even record what he’s seeing as a video.
It sounds like the deranged words of a conspiracy theorist: The U.S. military is (not so) secretly creating software that’ll generate phony online personae in order to subtly influence social media conversations and spread propaganda. But what may sound like wacky theory is actually wacky reality, or at least will soon be, depending on whether it’s already in the works.
Dubbed the “online persona management service,” this technology would enable a single soldier to assume upwards of 10 different identities. As United States Central Command Commander Bill Speaks told The Guardian, “The technology supports classified blogging activities on foreign-language websites to enable Centcom to counter violent extremist and enemy propaganda outside the US.”
Once developed, the software could allow US service personnel, working around the clock in one location, to respond to emerging online conversations with any number of co-ordinated messages, blogposts, chatroom posts and other interventions. Details of the contract suggest this location would be MacDill air force base near Tampa, Florida, home of US Special Operations Command. [The Guardian]
Said to be part of the Operation Earnest Voice (OEV) program, a psychological warfare weapon first used in Iraq to counter al-Qaida’s online followers, the goal of this latest project is twofold: To argue against extremist propaganda and to make sure “the world according to the U.S.” is heard. As General James Mattis told a Senate committee: “OEV seeks to disrupt recruitment and training of suicide bombers; deny safe havens for our adversaries; and counter extremist ideology and propaganda.” He added that Centcom was working with “our coalition partners” to develop new techniques and tactics the US could use “to counter the adversary in the cyber domain”. Read More
And while parties can be tough for some, it’s even more difficult to integrate and interact after being deposited on the other side of the world in a completely new culture.
Being a suave, talkative ambassador for your countries is difficult under these circumstances, and the nerds at DARPA decided that soldiers could use a lesson in what they call “basic human dynamics skills.” They’ve decided that our soldiers just aren’t smooth enough and could use lessons to turn them into the ultimate conversationalist.
Wired’s Danger Room blog reports on the DARPA announcement:
“After such training,” the agency adds, “soldiers will be able to approach and engage strangers in unfamiliar social environments, orient to unfamiliar patterns of behavior, recover from social mistakes, de-escalate conflict, rigorously practice transition in and out of force situations and engage in the process of discovering and adapting to previously unknown ‘rules of the game’ encountered in social engagements.”
The robotic ears of the U.S. Army just got an upgrade: now robots don’t have to be right next to a wall to detect humans breathing on the other side.
The … Cougar20-H “can … be remotely programmed at multiple way points to scan the desired premise in a multi-story building and provide its layout,” TiaLinx boasted.
The remote-controlled robot could save lives as troops battle insurgents in Afghanistan and other regions because it allows them to ‘see’ who’s inside a building before they physically enter. And there’s the possibility that it could be used to fight human trafficking or to help with rescue missions.
Even U.S. intelligence agents make decidedly unintelligent decisions at times. So it may not come as a surprise that the government is willing to invest in any project that could help agencies spot and correct their own decision-skewing prejudices–even if that project is a video game.
Dubbed “Sirius,” the anti-bias project is the brainchild of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), a government agency whose mission statement might as well have come from a spy novel: to invest in “high-risk/high-payoff research programs that have the potential to provide our nation with an overwhelming intelligence advantage over future adversaries.”
One of those overwhemlming advantages: clear, bias-free thinking. That’s why computer scientists, gaming experts, social scientists, and statisticians will descend on Washington, D.C. in February to discuss the program. The focus of the Sirius project is on “serious games,” or educational video games. As IARPA reports:
Facing enemy gunshots, which would you choose: the old stand-by Kevlar vest, or a new “liquid” suit? Ongoing research at BAE Systems suggests you might be wise to pick the latter. Recent tests, BAE researchers suggest, hint that a combination of liquid and Kevlar layers might stop bullets more quickly and keep them from going as deep.
BAE tested each material’s mettle by blasting them will ball bearings fired at over 600 miles per hour from a gas gun. The video, available on the BBC site, shows a side-by-side comparison of 31 layers of Kevlar and 10 layers of Kevlar combined with the liquid.
Apparently, the liquid has a secret recipe for how it sticks together to absorb the bullet’s force. Watching the video, it seems like non-Newtonian fluids are at work (everyday examples of non-Newtonians include ketchup and peanut-butter). Though a cornstarch and water mixture stiffens when you punch it, it’s hard to see cornstarch making strides on the battlefield.
Even if he can’t divulge the details, Stewart Penny, a business development manager at BAE, told the BBC that the material is seriously sticky.
“It’s very similar to custard in the sense that the molecules lock together when it’s struck.”
BAE also believes that the new liquid suit will be less cumbersome than traditional Kevlar suits–reducing soldiers’ fatigue and also, given that it’s liquid, improving their flexibility in the field.
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Image: flickr/ The Ratt