The Pentagon transformed its center courtyard Wednesday into an adult science fair, as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency showcased more than 100 of its latest projects as part of DARPA Demo Day 2014.
It wasn’t DARPA’s first demo day, but it was the first hosted by the agency’s Information Innovation Office — and in the middle of the Pentagon courtyard, no less. Rick Weiss, director of public affairs at DARPA, said the event was successful because of its ability to connect the researchers and developers behind groundbreaking technologies with the very defense personnel who may one day use them.
“The idea is both to let Defense Department folks — mostly science and technology folks — know about some of the areas that DARPA is working on that are relevant to their mission and to hear feedback from them as well, in terms of what their needs are on the ground and how some of what we’re developing could be useful to them in ways that maybe we have not anticipated,” Weiss said.
Though it wasn’t open to the public or industry members other than the project developers, Weiss said the demo day looked and felt like a packed festival.
Because DARPA’s I2O hosted the event, there was a heavy emphasis on cyber technologies, big data, language translation and software.
“The information revolution has been a huge boon to society, but our growing dependence on information networks also means that information is today’s tactical and strategic high ground, increasingly targeted by adversaries from everyday criminals to networked terrorists who would do our nation mortal harm,” said DARPA I2O Director Dan Kaufman in a statement. “I2O’s mission is to ensure the safety and reliability of essential information technologies, against the challenges we face today and also against those we can imagine well into the future.”
Active authentication projects had a strong showing at the event, according to Weiss. He described the developing technology as “ways your computer or cell phone would know you are you without having to punch in a password every time you want to get started.” For instance, he referenced devices using accelerometers to learn the way someone walks to identify them.
Big data was also a big hit. DARPA placed heavy emphasis on a project called Mining and Understanding Software Enclaves, or MUSE, “which is seeking to organize all of the open source data in the world in a way that could help people who are writing software not have to start from scratch each time they start,” Weiss said.
And though most of the innovative projects came directly from the Information Innovation Office, some technology from other DARPA offices made appearances as well, like the new DEKA prosthetic arm.
“It’s one of the fastest moving fields in defense R&D, just because information is becoming such an essential element both in offensive and defensive capabilities,” Weiss said. “So it’s a huge area of particular interest right now within the DOD community.”