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DARPA Tech in the News

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All the ten-pound brains have made their way to Anaheim, Calif., for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency technical symposium this week to sling the latest in gadgetry and gizmos both fanciful and practical.

While DT has concentrated this week on the here and now (or at least the almost here and now), theres a band of diligent journos pouring over the latest wares that would make even Buck Rogers grin.

Slate has a great write up on the event, as does our partner, Popular Mechanics.

Heres a quick look at a few:

Daniel Engber of Slate writes --

If some devices seem impossibly advanced, others come off as weirdly pass. The RPGNets system is designed to protect light tactical vehicles from rocket-powered grenades. Hanging from the ceiling is a giant net with a grenade tangled in the weave like a sockeye salmon. According to the display, this advanced research program aims to "leverage net technology" against enemy weapons by manipulating the size of the mesh and the diameter of the lines. Do we really need DARPA to invest in high-tech nets?...

Meanwhile, research seems to have progressed on the brain-controlled prostheses that were introduced (in concept, at least) two years ago. At one display area, a pair of armless volunteers and a young veteran missing his right hand demonstrate some fancy new models. We don't yet have bionic arms that hook up directly to the cortex, but one machine uses electrical signals from the muscle tissue remaining in a patient's stump to drive a mechanical hand: After extended training, the veteran could open and close his metal grip by imagining the movements. Another makes use of a foot-operated control mechanism hidden in a normal-looking shoe?

And Popular Mechanics chimes in

One of the first announcements at this year's three-day DARPATech conference is going to be hard to top: the first portable, self-contained surgical robot will be deployed in the next two years. Brett Giroir, director of the research agency's Defense Sciences Office also announced that the system, called Trauma Pod, has successfully "treated" a mannequin during a test, with no complications.

A single human will operate the robot remotely during surgery, but Trauma Pod will be able to perform a number of functions, such as fluid administration and surgical assistance, autonomously. The goal is to stabilize injured soldiers as quickly as possible, and previous Trauma Pod designs have included related systems that evacuate the patient. Giroir said that a prototype will be delivered to troops within two years. The exhibit hall opens in another few hours, so check back for more Trauma Pod details and updated images.

-- Christian

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