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DARPA
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Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

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Gene editors and derivative technologies such as gene drives hold great potential to help solve a wide range of national security, public health, environmental, and agricultural challenges, but so far there has been little focus on how to ensure the safety of such technologies. DARPA envisions creating a modular set of tools that could help innovators conduct responsible science while protecting against accidental or nefarious misuse. Last week, DARPA announced the seven teams that will work to turn that vision into a reality as part of the Safe Genes program. 

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Liang Guo, a Young Faculty Award recipient from The Ohio State University, is using his DARPA funding to pursue “Implantable, Programmable Integrated Cellular Circuits" to replace traditional implantable medical electronics. Guo's new type of engineered bio-circuit aims to avoid biocompatibility issues by engineering cells and cellular circuits to act in the place of electronics.


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Can we FINALLY move beyond passwords for computer and device security? Not yet, but we're rapidly getting there. CBS News covers our Active Authentication program and research taking place at Rutgers University. 

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We're happy to announce the start of research and development on the Neural Engineering System Design (NESD) program. DARPA has selected five research organizations and one company to lead efforts to develop a high-resolution, implantable neural interface: Brown University, Columbia University, Fondation Voir et Entendre (The Seeing and Hearing Foundation), John B. Pierce Laboratory, Paradromics, Inc., and University of California, Berkeley. Their teams will develop the fundamental research and component technologies required to pursue the NESD vision and integrate them to create and demonstrate working systems able to support potential future therapies for sensory restoration. Four of the teams will focus on vision and two will focus on aspects of hearing and speech.

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"...Somewhere around 2007 I got a visit from a guy who was frenetic. He was in full uniform; he's a colonel; and within a few minutes you realize besides being a colonel who had done a couple of rounds in Iraq and Afghanistan, he's also a neurosurgeon, and he's very passionate about taking care of his people. And within a few minutes of when we meet Dr. Ling, he's pounding on my conference room table saying, 'Look, Dean, at the end of the Civil War we gave people a wooden stick with a hook on it when they gave their arm to a musket ball. Now, it's 150 years later and we give them all sorts of things way more sophisticated than muskets, but maybe an IED or something takes their arm, we bring them back, we give them a plastic stick with a hook on it.' He said, 'That's going to stop.'"

Thus begins inventor Dean Kamen's recollection of how he began working with DARPA to develop the LUKE Arm, a new generation of prosthetic limb that gives amputees unprecedented, near-natural arm and hand motion. On June 30, 2017, two veterans became the first recipients of these arms.

For more information, visit: http://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2017-06-30.

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Our smart quadcopters were recently finding their way through the woods and through buildings, guided entirely by onboard sensors, with no GPS. +Airman Magazine has the story. 

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On June 30th, at a ceremony at the Manhattan campus of the Department of Veterans Affairs' New York Harbor Health Care System, two veterans living with arm amputations became the first recipients of a new generation of prosthetic limb that promises them unprecedented, near-natural arm and hand motion. The modular, battery-powered arms, designed and developed by DEKA Research and Development Corporation for DARPA, represent the most significant advance in upper extremity prosthetics in more than a century.

The prosthetic “LUKE” arm system—which stands for “Life Under Kinetic Evolution” but is also a passing reference to Luke Skywalker of Star Wars fame—enables dexterous arm and hand movement through a simple, intuitive control system. The system allows users to control multiple joints simultaneously and provides a variety of grips and grip forces by means of wireless signals generated by sensors worn on the feet or via other easy-to-use controllers.

Years of testing and optimization in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) led to clearance by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and creation of a commercial-scale manufacturer, Mobius Bionics of Manchester, N.H. More than 100 people living with amputation were involved in initial studies, which led to a product whose natural size, weight, and shape provides unparalleled comfort and ease of use.

During the ceremony, VA Secretary David Shulkin presented LUKE arms to Fred Downs and Artie McAuley. Downs is a prosthetics consultant for the Paralyzed Veterans of America and retired Chief Procurement and Logistics Officer for the Veterans Health Administration who lost his left arm above the elbow during the Vietnam War. McAuley is an Army veteran whose arm was amputated as the result of an accident while stationed at Fort Drum, N.Y. He went without a prosthesis for years because earlier-generation devices did not work well for individuals whose loss extended all the way up to the shoulder.

Throughout the Revolutionizing Prosthetics program, DARPA received contracting support from the Army Research Office. Additionally, U.S. Army Medical Research and Material Command provided funding to help complete the FDA approval process.

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A milestone series of tests of our Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) systems recently had quadcopters slaloming through woodlands, swerving around obstacles in a hangar, and reporting back to their starting point all by themselves. The FLA program is advancing technology to enable small unmanned quadcopters to fly autonomously through cluttered buildings and obstacle-strewn environments at fast speeds (up to 20 meters per second / 45 miles per hour) using onboard cameras and sensors as “eyes” and smart algorithms to self-navigate. Potential applications for the technology include safely and quickly scanning for threats inside a building before military teams enter, searching for a downed pilot in a heavily forested area or jungle in hostile territory where overhead imagery can’t see through the tree canopy, or locating survivors following earthquakes or other disasters when entering a damaged structure could be unsafe.

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Phase 1 of DARPA’s Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program concluded recently following a series of obstacle-course flight tests in central Florida. Over four days, three teams of researchers huddled under tents in the Florida sun, fine-tuning their sensor-laden quadcopter unmanned aerial vehicles during the intervals between increasingly difficult runs. FLA is advancing technology to enable small unmanned quadcopters to fly autonomously through cluttered buildings and obstacle-strewn environments at fast speeds (up to 20 meters per second / 45 mph) using onboard cameras and sensors as “eyes” and smart algorithms to self-navigate. Learn more at: http://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2017-06-28. 
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DARPA's neurotechnology portfolio includes efforts to visualize and decode brain activity, develop devices that might help people with memory deficits, and create advanced prosthetic arm systems that restore feeling and movement after an injury. The director of our Biological Technologies Office, Justin Sanchez, recently walked through this portfolio with an audience at the U.K.'s Thinking Digital Conference. Now you can see the presentation too! https://youtu.be/nvUHDK59Igw

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