Humans learn by doing, so why shouldn't machines? A project funded by DARPA, the military's future technology wing, wants a program that can adapt to human musicians as they perform, and join in with the right notes—literally. Called MUSICA, for “Musical Improvising Collaborative Agent”, the goal is a device that can create and play a jazz solo in time with humans.
It's no secret that modern military aircraft are really, really expensive. Fighters like the F-35B cost about $134 million apiece, which makes them both attractive targets and potential liabilities in battle. To combat the high costs of modern planes, DARPA wants swarms of cheaper, useful drones, with expected lifespans of around 20 uses. They're calling these drones “gremlins”.
Robots are immune to pain, don't have to breathe, and depending on how they're designed, can go places humans can't. They're also, as my colleague Erik Sofge notes, about as good at walking as toddlers. Sofge is present to witness DARPA's rescue robot competition, where vaguely-humanoid mechanical beasts will open doors, climb over obstacles, and otherwise attempt to be human-but-better.
DARPA's self-steering bullet is, if acronyms are enough to go by, supposed to have razor-fine precision. Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance, or EXACTO, is a bullet that chases its target, adjusting course mid-flight to make sure it hits exactly what or who it is supposed to hit. In February, DARPA tested the bullet against moving targets, and yesterday they released a video from those tests.
For an organization at the heart of the future of war, DARPA can sometimes really undersell what it's making. Late last night, the agency released a video about drone and missile swarms, full of intelligent war machines working together to outwit, defeat, and destroy enemies. They titled this concept a “system of systems,” which only makes sense in deepest Pentagonese.
DARPA's latest drone program just took a turn for the better. The Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (TERN) is designed as a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) flyer for the US Navy. Like its avian namesake, TERN will be a sea-based flyer. The drone is designed as a sort of super crow's nest, flying from small vessels and scouting out the ocean ahead.