It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
(visit the link for the full news article)
Real-life "Transformers" could soon be used by American soldiers on the battlefield.
The Pentagon's research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is well into the second phase of a project to develop "programmable matter" that could reshape itself to fit any situation, reports SIGNAL magazine.
Originally posted by Lazyninja
reply to post by spikedmilk
The suggestion that transformers will be in place in a modern battlefield is a bit of artistic license on the part of the journo that ran that piece
The reason the military are so interested in shape memory metals and polymers is because of how useful they could potentially be to soldiers. For example, soldiers often cant carry everything they need unless they plan to lug around a huge backpack full of things. If there was a system where kit could perform multiple functions, by being programmed to reshape itself as it was needed, that would save a lot of problems with carry space, and vehicle repairs and so on.
Originally posted by mattifikation
Great. Let's build Terminators, because we all know *nothing* can go wrong with that...
Examples of programmable matter
There are many conceptions of programmable matter, and thus many discrete avenues of research using the name. Below are some specific examples of programmable matter.
"Simple" programmable matter
These include materials that can change their properties based on some input, but do not have the ability to do complex computation by themselves.
The physical properties of several complex fluids can be modified by applying a current or voltage, as is the case with liquid crystals.
Metamaterials are artificial composites that can be controlled to react in ways that do not occur in nature. One example developed by David Smith and then by John Pendry and David Schuri is of a material that can have its index of refraction tuned so that it can have a different index of refraction at different points in the material. If tuned properly this could result in an "invisibility cloak."
Shape Changing Molecules
An active area of research is in molecules that can change their shape, as well as other properties, in response to external stimuli. These molecules can be used individually or en masse to form new kinds of materials. For example, J Fraser Stoddart's group at UCLA has been developing molecules that can change their electrical properties.
Reconfigurable modular robotics
Self-Reconfiguring Modular Robotics is a field of robotics in which a group of usually identical robots work together to dynamically form shapes suitable for each task.
Claytronics is an emerging field of engineering concerning reconfigurable nanoscale robots ('claytronic atoms', or catoms) designed to form much larger scale machines or mechanisms. The catoms will be sub-millimeter computers that will eventually have the ability to move around, communicate with other computers, change color, and electrostatically connect to other catoms to form different shapes.
Cellular automata are a useful concept to abstract some of the concepts of discrete units interacting to give a desired overall behavior.
Quantum wells can hold one or more electrons. Those electrons behave like artificial atoms which, like real atoms, can form covalent bonds, but these are extremely weak. Because of their larger sizes, other properties are also widely different.
Synthetic biology is a field that aims to engineer cells with "novel biological functions." Such cells are usually used to create larger systems (e.g., biofilms) which can be "programmed" utilizing synthetic gene networks such as genetic toggle switches, to change their color, shape, etc.
Scientists at Tufts University have received a $3.3 million contract from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop chemical robots that will be so soft and squishy that they will be able to squeeze into spaces as tiny as 1 centimeter, then morph back into something 10 times larger, and ultimately biodegrade.
The project has two main thrusts. The first is to enable soldiers to work better in extremes -- high altitudes, brutal heat, and undersea depths. In each of these conditions, Callahan notes, there are animals that handle these environments well. The bar-headed goose, for instance, can fly for days at Himalayan heights without taking a break. Certain microorganisms thrive in steam vents, despite the Venutian conditions. Then there's the sea lion, which redirects blood flow and slows its heart rate, to stay underwater for hours.
The problem with cool strap-on heads-up displays a few lucky soldiers get to use on the battlefield today is that they're bulky affairs that make them look like half-assed cyborgs. Plus, the interface is limited. The Pentagon wants to develop contact lenses that'll put "first-person-shooter-type video game" graphics on top the soldiers' vision. Yes, they want to make real-life combat the realest Halo match ever.
Video shows the lead researcher in DARPA's "SyNAPSE" program describe it as a "global brain" with "trillions" of global sensors monitoring every aspect of the earth incluing "people" and their "homes". They seek to reverse engineer the human brain and then go beyond.
Originally posted by spikedmilk
Ya know I'm old enough to realize the difference between
sci-fi and reality but I hear you loud and clear. What happens when this is a done deal and phase 3 is to introduce AI in this "programmable matter"?