What is DARPA Doing Now ?

1. DARPA has funded Rice University to develop platform-aware compilation environment”. Enable compilers which are the everywhere to be faster without needing highly skilled people spending a lot of time tuning each one. If they succeed all computers would become faster.

“When a compiler translates human-written code into executable code, it makes myriad choices that have a direct impact on how fast the application runs, how much power it uses and how much memory it uses,” Cooper said.

The tools PACE project researchers hope to build will cut the time needed to create high-quality compilers. In addition, the PACE team will learn as it goes, measuring and weighing the goals, capabilities and performance of each processor, to create compilers that are optimized for particular situations.

Krishna Palem, Rice’s Ken and Audrey Kennedy Professor of Computer Science, said, “It is a rare treat to be working with this ‘dream team’ and continue Rice’s rich tradition in compiler research. PACE involves many innovations using radical ideas intended to allow compilers to learn and adapt, much as humans do during infancy.”

“This is akin to a Turing Test for compilers,” Sarkar said. “Our goal is to enable PACE tools to be used as a substitute for the time-consuming human expertise that is currently needed to improve the quality of compilers for any given platform.

“The challenge is daunting,” he said. “It’s not just hard, it is DARPA-hard.”

Because the PACE project will focus on portable performance, Cooper said, the researchers will rely on vendor-supplied compilers — for languages such as C and Fortran — to perform the final steps of code generation for the target systems. The output of the PACE tools will be a distinct version of an application’s code for each kind of processor in the system. Each of those codes will be specifically optimized for the processor, the surrounding system and the vendor compiler.

2. IEEE Spectrum reports DARPA is funding a system to provide detailed 3d building maps of above and below ground facilities over 3 days.The UK register also has coverage.

All this should be achieved without any US personnel needing to get within 10 meters of the building, and only brief excursions inside 20 meters: and the machinery should have the complete building map produced within 3 days.

3. A summary of other DARPA projects is provided from an interview with Gregory T.A. Kovacs who lead DARPA’s Microsystems Technology Office.

The MTO funds engineering in five general areas: electronics, photonics, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), computer architectures, and algorithms. But as Kovacs has repeatedly said, the role of DARPA is more about integrating these units into interdisciplinary projects.

* The Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (HI-MEMS) program. Researchers funded under that program are tasked with the creation of moths or other insects that have electronic controls and energy-harvesting devices implanted inside them, making them self-powered remote-controlled spies.

* Trust in Integrated Circuits (TIC) program, which aims to verify the contents of any microchip assembled offshore. This is a punishing task, as only a few hundred transistors out of 2 billion could theoretically wreak havoc; finding them is a classic needle-in-a-haystack problem.

* Integrated Sensor Is Structure (ISIS) aims for the construction of a 150- to 300-meter-long stratospheric airship to deliver real-time surveillance of the battlefield below and the horizon all around.

* Previously you couldn’t carry sizable [GPS replacement location determining] equipment [into the cave]. Unless it’s the size of a couple of sugar cubes, it’s got no hope of helping. DARPA now have versions of that that are very advanced and very small—small enough to be carried.

Another example is the ocean. It’s impenetrable to the radio frequencies that GPS uses. You have no geographic fix at all, and at that point, all you know is your depth. Sure, a compass will work, but if you’ve ever dived, you’re relying on a compass in murky water. It’s not very accurate.

* DARPA is investigating an entirely new type of transistor, called a tunneling transistor, which would operate at lower voltages—a quarter volt instead of today’s 1 volt. That would greatly reduce the active heat dissipation, which is proportional to the square of the voltage.