Brains-on-a-chip, robotic rescue choppers, see-through displays — those are just a few of the projects that the Pentagon’s mad science division has hatched up for next year.
Earlier this week, DARPA, the Defense Department’s way-out research arm, submitted its $3.29 billion budget for the 2009 fiscal year. In it are dozens of new programs — one more far-reaching than the next.
A particularly wild project is Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics, or SyNAPSE. “The program will develop a brain inspired electronic ‘chip’ that mimics that function, size, and power consumption of a biological cortex,” DARPA promises us. “If successful, the program will provide the foundations for functional machines to supplement humans in many of the most demanding situations faced by warfighters today” — like getting usable information out of video feeds, and starting tasks. The agency is looking to spend $3 million next year, to get started on its faux brain effort. My guess is that it will take considerably more cash to get it done.
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