At the height of the Cold War, the Soviets were gaining on the US in terms of military might and technical superiority. When they launched Sputnik, the world's first satellite, into orbit on Oct. 4, 1957, paranoia peaked in the West. Who was what the Russians would do with “an eye in the sky”?
Sixteen weeks after Sputnik's launch, Neil McElroy, Defense Secretary under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, issued a directive that created the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) .
The agency, now known as DARPA after adding “defense” to its name by 1972, was unusual in that it was recognized the need to do with the usual machinations of government bureaucracy. Now, on its 60th birthday, it's a testbed for futuristic technology that often ends up in our favorite devices.
J. CR Licklider, first director of DARPA's Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO)
With an annual budget of about $ 3 billion, its headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, are mostly administrative: 220 government employees, including 100 revolving program managers, recruited from industry , academic, and political institutions, oversee 250 R & D grant-funded projects. There are offices, but no actual “labs” or scientists in white coats. Few policy wonks roam the halls.
The many discoveries DARPA has presided over to the date-including the internet, missile detection, GPS, and stealth aircraft, to name just a few-are done by a distributed network of scientists, mathematicians, engineers and other big thinkers. DARPA'S oN-Line System (NLS) ” border=”0″ class=”center” src=”https://assets.pcmag.com/media/images/606127-darpa-s-on-line-system-nls.jpg?thumb=y&width=980&height=630″/>
Douglas Engelbart's oN-Line System (NLS)
DARPA is particularly keen to identify the rising stars and support it. One is Dr. Paul Hamilton, an anatomical physicist from UCLA, who is building gravitational waves and navigation alternatives to the Global Positioning System. Professor Hamilton will use his DARPA Young Faculty Award, in collaboration with Dr. Wes Campbell, also at UCLA, to further his research.
“DARPA is a great partner in my laboratory research,” Dr. Hamilton told PCMag via email. “Their long-term vision towards financing technology of the future”
PCMag has covered many DARPA events at which new concepts are forged, project grants launched, and geeks test their mettle inside hackathons. Last year, at NASA AMES, we donned a hard hat and safety glasses and watched the A-equipped drones in flight before sitting down with the former hacker Joe Grand, aka “Kingpin,” who was giving a keynote at the event.
In December, we interviewed Linda Doyle from Dublin's Trinity College. We joined 1,000 innovators in St. Petersburg. Louis to hear AI veterans Paul Cohen and Dr. Tom Dietterich debate the future of the Tool AI (Siri, machine learning) versus Autonomous AI (smart grids, cars). In 2015, we sat in the stands at Pomona and watched Hubo, a robot from Korea, slip into an SUV and drive it.
The agency's next big event is D60, a 60th Anniversary Symposium, from Sept. 5-7 in Maryland.
“The institutional goals of the event are to strengthen and expand the DARPA's innovation ecosystem, including academia, industry, and government partners, inform stakeholders about DARPA's vision and priorities, and learn from the Agency's ongoing record of achievements and experience in the challenges of the reproduction of technology, “according to DARPA spokesperson.
The keynote will be given by retired Navy Admiral William H. McRaven, who is planned and oversaw the raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden, and made headlines recently with a president of the United States of America. (TIGR), artificial intelligence, and biosecurity.
One field of research that we will be following up on is directed by Lori Adornato, program manager of DARPA's Biological Technologies Office. Her work focuses on using the “natural sensing capabilities” of marine life to “detect and signal when events occur in strategic waters.” Stay tuned for more.