May 17, 2016

DARPA demo day highlights exoskeletons, robotic arms and nanotechnology

Here are some highlights from the DARPA demo day

Assembling nano structures from atoms to products

DARPA is working on a number of micro-technologies; one example is the effort to build a machine that can assemble nano-structures. The incredibly-intricate structures made of carbon fiber can be very strong, yet very light.

DARPA recently launched its Atoms to Product (A2P) program, with the goal of developing technologies and processes to assemble nanometer-scale pieces—whose dimensions are near the size of atoms—into systems, components, or materials that are at least millimeter-scale in size. At the heart of that goal was a frustrating reality: Many common materials, when fabricated at nanometer-scale, exhibit unique and attractive “atomic-scale” behaviors including quantized current-voltage behavior, dramatically lower melting points and significantly higher specific heats—but they tend to lose these potentially beneficial traits when they are manufactured at larger “product-scale” dimensions, typically on the order of a few centimeters, for integration into devices and systems.

DARPA recently selected 10 performers to tackle this challenge: Zyvex Labs, Richardson, Texas; SRI, Menlo Park, California; Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts; University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana; HRL Laboratories, Malibu, California; PARC, Palo Alto, California; Embody, Norfolk, Virginia; Voxtel, Beaverton, Oregon; Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Draper Laboratory, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Microscopic tools such as this nanoscale “atom writer” can be used to fabricate minuscule light-manipulating structures on surfaces. DARPA has selected 10 performers for its Atoms to Product (A2P) program whose goal is to develop technologies and processes to assemble nanometer-scale pieces—whose dimensions are near the size of atoms—into systems, components, or materials that are at least millimeter-scale in size. (Image credit: Boston University)

Brain controlled Robo-arm

Matheney was a highlight of the DEMO Day, drawing a crowd with his ability to move his mechanical elbow, wrist and five fingered-hand. He shook hands with a gentle touch. He said he has enough control to gently hold a toddler's hand one minute, and exhibit significant strength the next.

Johnny Matheney, a civilian who lost his arm to cancer in 2008, demonstrated his one-of-a-kind prosthetic. This DARPA prototype is integrated directly onto the bone and uses sensors to pick up nerve signals from the brain to generate movement

Exosuit

This soft robotic exoskeleton runs a series of cables that helps legs to walk. With soldiers carrying heavy loads over long distances, DARPA has funded work at Harvard to try to reduce fatigue. The current prototypes weigh 10 pounds total, with the motor mounted above the rucksack. Sensors help the machine understand walking patterns and adjusts to pace and movements, and the motor pulls the cables to reduce the effort the wearer has to put into it. Three remains years of work to optimize and economize it.

Spc. Rafael Boza, a Soldier from the 1st Infantry Division, tests the prototype smart suit on a three-mile course of paved roads and rough terrain at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., Oct. 3, 2014. (Photo: Army)



SOURCES - DARPA, Army times

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