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Entries in Military (8)


Researchers Create Life-like, Autonomous Robot Jellyfish 

This is too cool: Researchers from the Virginia Tech College of Engineering just unveiled an autonomous robotic "jellyfish" that is amazingly life-like. It's the size and weight of a grown man, 5 foot 7 inches in length and weighing 170 pounds, and it's part of a U.S. Navy-funded project.

"Cyro," the robotic jellyfish prototype, directly copies the motions of real-life jellyfish to move fluidly and efficiently. It's designed to be left in the ocean for weeks or even months to do anything from cleaning up oil spills to conducting military surveillance.

Robots that are created to move like jellyfish and lizards? We can't wait to see what emerges next.


DARPA Links Human Brainwaves, Improved Sensors and Cognitive Algorithms to Detect Threats  

DARPA's CT120 CameraDARPA is taking "computer vision" to a whole new level. The group is combining new-wave sensors and  cognitive algorithms with brain scans to enable soldiers to process an unbelievable amount of information.

In 2008, the group launched the Cognitive Technology Threat Warning System (CT2WS) program with the goal of maximizing warfighters’ awareness of their surroundings by developing portable visual threat detection devices. CT2WS created technology that can identify up to 91 percent of targets during testing with extremely low false-alarm rates and can widen a soldier's field of view to 120 degrees when all components of the kit are used in tandem. By incorporating a commercial radar (the Cerberus Scout surveillance system), target detection reached 100 percent.

“DARPA set out to solve a common challenge for forward troops: how can you reliably detect potential threats and targets of interest without making it a resource drain?” said Gill Pratt, DARPA program manager. “The prototype system has demonstrated an extremely low false alarm rate, a detection rate in the low 90s, all while reducing the load on the operator.”

The CT2WS system includes a 120-megapixel, tripod-mounted, electro-optical video camera with a 120-degree field of view; cognitive visual processing algorithms that can be run on laptops to identify potential targets and cue images for operator review; and an EEG cap that monitors the operator’s brain signals and records when the operator detects a threat. Pretty cool, right?

As DARPA explains it, CT2WS built on the concept that humans are inherently adept at detecting the unusual. Even though a person may not be consciously aware of movement or of unexpected appearance, the brain detects it and triggers a brain signal that is thought to be involved in stimulus evaluation or categorization. By improving the sensors that capture imagery and filtering results, a user wearing an EEG cap can rapidly view the filtered image set and let the brain’s natural threat-detection ability work. Amazingly, users are shown approximately 10 images per second, on average. Despite that quick sequence, brain signals indicate to the computer which images were significant.

The use of EEG-based human filtering significantly reduces the amount of false alarms. The cognitive algorithms can also highlight events that would otherwise be considered irrelevant but are actually indications of threats or targets, such as a bird flying by or a branch’s swaying. In testing of the full CT2WS kit, absent radar, the sensor and cognitive algorithms returned 810 false alarms per hour. When a human wearing the EEG cap was introduced, the number of false alarms dropped to only five per hour, out of a total of 2,304 target events per hour, and a 91 percent successful target recognition rate.

Field tests of the CT2WS system were conducted in desert terrain at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, in tropical terrain in Hawaii, and in open terrain at California’s Camp Roberts. DARPA provided a final demonstration of the CT2WS system to Army officials at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.


How Dangerous is it That Iran Has U.S. Drone?

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Iran has politely declined the White House’s request to return its downed drone, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said today that his people have been able to "control" the device. With this sophisticated technology in Iran’s hands, what does this mistake mean for the U.S.?

First of all, it’s unclear how intact the RQ-170 drone was after its crash. Some experts have questioned the authenticity of photos and video of the UAV, speculating that Iran may have “mocked up” the drone pictured above.

However, if Iran truly does have the drone -- and it is in working condition -- many fear that the hostile nation could learn much about U.S. spying strategies and technology. Even if Iran doesn't use this information itself, it could easily be sold to China or Russia -- or any other nation that might find it useful. If nothing else, the incident has embarrassingly revealed the underlying secrecy of expanded U.S. operations against Iran's nuclear and military programs.

Ahmadinejad is claiming that his country can learn a lot from the captured technology. Meanwhile, certain UAV experts doubt they will be able to glean its secrets.

More likely, Iran will simply use this incident for political posturing. Ahmadinejad took the opportunity to brag about his country's existing UAV knowledge and technology:

"There are people here who have been able to control this spy plane," Ahmadinejad told VTV. "Those who have been in control of this spy plane surely will analyze the plane's system. Furthermore, the systems of Iran are so advanced also, like the system of this plane."

After President Obama requested the drone be returned, state media jumped at the chance to mock the U.S. for being in the role of "the begger."

And what of the whole "spying" issue? Officially, the drone was conducting surveillance over Afghanistan, malfunctioned and crashed onto Iranian soil (140 miles from the Afghan border...). But Iran -- and, OK, certain Americans -- don't buy it. Now that the U.S. has its largest-ever fleet of UAVs, I wouldn't doubt for a second that we conduct surveillance on Iran, especially amid suspicions over their nuclear development program.

Iran isn't about to let the incident go: Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said the United States owes Iran an apology and needs to admit its crime.

Meanwhile, another U.S. drone reportedly crashed in Seychelles on Tuesday, causing this blogger to wonder who, exactly, is piloting these unmanned drones?


Before SEALs Found Bin Laden, Military Considered Using Crows  

It's the type of story that's almost too bizarre to be true. But both military officials and researchers at the University of Washington have confirmed that the U.S. military once considered using flocks of crows to track down Osama bin Laden. 

According to news reports, John Marzluff, a wildlife sciences professor at the university, was contracted years ago by the military to study crows and their ability to recognize human faces.

Crows' innate facial recognition capabilities make them a unique asset -- unless they're trained to track you down of course. 

KING 5 in Seattle reports:

Marzluff and his team wore caveman masks when they captured and tagged crows on the UW campus. To this day, if they wear those masks, they are harassed by flocks of crows following their every step. When they take the masks off, the crows leave them alone.

The military heard of this research and considered the possibility of using crows to recognize missing soldiers or even the world's most wanted terrorist, bin Laden.

Marzluff said he could train the crows to idenfity bin Laden by harassing (or even killing) them while wearing an Osama mask. Over time, he said, "word" would spread to crows around the world. 


Flash Drive Caused the Worst Cyber Attack on U.S. Military 

The most serious cyber attack on the U.S. military's networks came from a tainted flash drive in 2008, forcing the Pentagon to review its digital security, a top U.S. defense official said Wednesday. The thumb drive, which was inserted in a military laptop in the Mideast, contained malicious code that "spread undetected on both classified and unclassified systems, establishing what amounted to a digital beachhead, from which data could be transferred to servers under foreign control," Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn wrote in the journal Foreign Affairs.

The code was placed on the drive by "a foreign intelligence agency," Lynn wrote. "It was a network administrator's worst fear: a rogue program operating silently, poised to deliver operational plans into the hands of an unknown adversary."

The Pentagon had never openly discussed the incident, but Lynn chose to reveal the details of the attack as officials try to raise public awareness of the growing threat posed to government computer networks.

The incident served as a wake-up for the Pentagon and prompted major changes in how the department handled digital threats, including the formation of a new cyber military command, Lynn said.

After the 2008 assault, the Pentagon banned its work force from using flash drives, but recently eased the prohibition.

Since the attack, the military has developed methods to uncover intruders inside its network, or so-called "active defense systems," Lynn said.

But he added that drafting rules of engagement for defending against cyber attack was "not easy," as the laws of war were written before the advent of a digital battlefield.