Perhaps you thought the four-legged BigDog robot wasn’t eerily lifelike enough. That’ll change soon. BigDog’s makers are working on a new quadruped that moves faster than any human and is agile enough to “chase and evade.”
Boston Dynamics, maker of the Army’s BigDog robotic mule, announced today that Darpa has awarded it a contract to build a much faster and more fearsome animal-like robot, Cheetah.
As the name implies, Cheetah is designed to be a four-legged robot with a flexible spine and articulated head (and potentially a tail) that runs faster than the fastest human. In addition to raw speed, Cheetah’s makers promise that it will have the agility to make tight turns so that it can “zigzag to chase and evade” and be able to stop on a dime.
Cheetah builds off work on the company’s previous four legged animal bot, BigDog. It was built as a kind of unmanned pack mule, designed to carry equipment for troops on the battlefield. The robotic donkey could carry 300 lbs. over 13 miles on flat ground, take a swift kick and keep on moving. It’s creepy, lifelike movement can be seen on a number of videos online, climbing over hills and snow and hiking alongside soldiers, using GPS coordinates as its waypoints.
Aside from its unspecified military applications, Cheetah’s makers see it galloping to the rescue and building a brave new future in the fields of “emergency response, firefighting, advanced agriculture and vehicular travel.”
Think that’s creepy? Wait till you see its humanoid, Terminator look-alike buddy.
Meet Atlas, Cheetah’s humanoid pal. Atlas is supposed to look more or less like the T-800 series of Terminators, minus the head. Its designers say it’ll be able to walk like a human over rough terrain, crawling on its hands and knees when necessary and turning itself sideways to slip through any narrow passages it encounters. Headless, with a torso and two arms, it’s a step up from Boston Dynamics’ other biped, the lower-body-bot Petman.
Petman was built to test out chemical weapons protective suits for the Army by “walking, crawling and doing a variety of suit-stressing calisthenics” and “simulat[ing] human physiology.” Designers made it capable of walking heel-to-toe at 3.2 miles per hour and staying upright even after it gets pushed.
As the new models go into development, let’s hope Cheetah never develops a taste for human flesh and that Atlas doesn’t have any hard feelings about its predecessor being a poison-gas guinea pig for the Army.
Images: Boston Dynamics
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In the future, the power of magnetism will be harnessed to make today’s high explosives seem feeble, “guided bullets” will put the current crop of snipers to shame, and new multi-purpose missiles will strike targets in a flash from high-flying drones. At least, that’s part of the Pentagon’s battlefield vision of tomorrow’s tomorrow.
Ordinarily, planning for the future is not a U.S. government forte. A mere glance at the national debt, now around $14 trillion and climbing, or two recent studies showing how China’s green technology investments have outpaced U.S. efforts should drive home that fact. But one government agency is always forward-looking, the Department of Defense’s blue skies research branch, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Born in the wake of an American panic over the 1957 Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite, DARPA set to work keeping the Pentagon ahead of potential adversaries on the technology front. It counts the Internet and the Global Positioning System among its triumphs, and psychic spying and a mechanical elephant designed for use in the jungles of Southeast Asia among its many failures. It also boasts a long legacy when it comes to creating and enhancing lethal technologies, including M-16 rifles, Predator drones, stealth fighters, Tomahawk cruise missiles, and B-52 bombers, which have been employed in conflicts across the globe.
Today, DARPA is carrying on that more than half-century-old tradition through a host of programs designed with war, death, and destruction in mind. Wielding a budget of about $3 billion a year and investing heavily in futuristic weaponry and other military technology, it is undoubtedly helping to fuel the arms races of 2020 and 2030. While the United States seems content to let China sprint ahead in green technology, a number of its future weapons appear to be designed with a country like China in mind.
All of its planning is, however, shrouded in remarkable secrecy. Make inquiries about any of the weapons systems it’s exploring and a barrage of excuses for telling you next to nothing pour forth — a program is between managers, or classified, or only now in the process of awarding its contracts. DARPA spokespeople and project managers even prefer not to clarify or explain publicly available information. Still, it’s possible to offer a sketch of some of the future weaponry the Pentagon has in development, and in the process glimpse what messages it’s sending to other nations around the world.
1. Mayhem Without the “Y”
Even in military culture, where arcane, clunky, or sometimes witty acronyms are a dime a dozen, DARPA projects stand out. Sometimes it almost seems as if like the agency comes up with a particularly bad-ass name first and then creates a weapons system to suit. Take as an example the Magneto Hydrodynamic Explosive Munition or — wait for it — MAHEM.
This program, run out of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, seeks to “demonstrate compressed magnetic flux generator (CMFG)-driven magneto hydrodynamically formed metal jets and self-forging penetrators (SFP) with significantly improved performance over explosively formed jets (EFJ) and fragments,” according to the agency’s website.
If you’re scratching your head about what that could mean, don’t ask DARPA. When I inquired about the basics of how the weapon would function, a simple lay definition for the folks paying for this wonder-weapon-to-be, spokesman Richard Spearman insisted that “sensitivities” prevented him from giving me any further information.
As near as can be told, though, you should imagine an anti-tank round with a powerful magnetic field. Upon impact, it will utilize magnetic force to ram a jet of molten metal into the target. Theoretically, this will pack more punch that today’s high-explosive-propelled projectiles and lead, according to DARPA, to “increased lethality precision.”
2. Hasta La Vista, Baby
In the 2003 science-fiction sequel Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, or T3, a metal monster from the future, a Terminatrix, is sent back to alter the present in order to ensure a future where machines rule the world and humans face extinction. Today, DARPA, the Air Force, and a couple defense industry heavyweights are seeking to change the future of munitions with a monster of their own — “a high speed, long-range missile that can engage air, cruise missile, and air defense targets.” The name of the program? I kid you not: Triple Target Terminator (T3).
Designed to be fired by either manned aircraft or drones, the Triple Target Terminator seeks to “increase the number and variety of targets that could be destroyed on each sortie” by allowing an aircraft to engage in air-to-air combat or air-to-ground attack with the same armament. Just what future air force the U.S. military imagines itself attacking with this weapon is not the sort of thing you’ll find out from DARPA. Spokesperson Spearman told me that “sensitivities” again prevented him from explaining even the basics of the system or its future uses. “A good part of the program itself is classified,” he assured me.
Last fall, Defense Industry Daily reported that Raytheon had received a $21.3 million contract for the Triple Target Terminator (T3) program. This was followed, a few weeks later, by the same sum being awarded to Boeing for work on the project. These contracts constitute an initial one-year attempt to design a missile that meets “program objectives” and will set the stage for future efforts.
In a prepared statement provided to TomDispatch late last year, DARPA declared: “Depending on successful phase completion, follow on efforts will continue in two more phases with multiple-technology risk reduction demonstrations, including live fire from tactical aircraft. The program is structured to last three years, culminating in test demonstrations in 2013.”
3. Anti-Ship Shape
Once upon a time, broadsides and boarding parties typified warfare on the high seas. In the future, the U.S. military has its sights set on something slightly more high tech. To that end, DARPA is now developing a Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) that seeks to provide “a dramatic leap ahead in U.S. surface warfare capability.”
Designed to evade advanced enemy countermeasures, this would-be smart weapon is supposed to permit “high probability target identification in dense shipping environments, and precision aimpoint targeting for maximum lethality.” DARPA isn’t talking about this program either. LRASM, Spearman told me in December, was “in the final throes of getting all its contracts awarded. Until that happens and we have an official announcement, I can’t set up any media engagements on that one.”
By mid-January when I followed up, the final throes had yet to cease, but just days later DARPA awarded two contracts, totaling $218 million, to military-corporate powerhouse Lockheed Martin for work on two different LRASM missiles. “Lockheed Martin is proud to offer our technology for Navy solutions,” announced Lockheed’s tactical missile honcho Glenn Kuller. “These LRASM contracts will demonstrate two mature tactical missiles for new generation anti-surface warfare weapons capability; one low and stealthy, the other high and fast with moderate stealth.”
4. Bullet Ballet
It’s the farthest thing from a fair fight. A man peers through an advanced telescopic sight. He zeros in on his prey, a figure without a sporting chance who has no idea that he’s being targeted for death. The sniper, who has lugged his 30 pound, .50 caliber rifle up a ridgeline in order to kill with a single shot, breathes slow and steady, focuses, waits, waits, and finally pulls the trigger. A breeze he never felt, somewhere in the 4,000 feet between him and his target, sends the round off course. The sniper doesn’t log another kill. The human target gets to live another day.
To the U.S. military, this is a terribly sad story, and so they’ve turned to DARPA to look for a happier ending — in this case via the Extreme Accuracy Tactical Ordnance, or EXACTO program which aims to allow “the sniper to prosecute moving targets even in high wind conditions, such as those commonly found in Afghanistan.”
The plan is for DARPA scientists to develop “the first ever guided small caliber bullet.” If you’ve ever watched a heat-seeking missile follow a fighter jet in a lame 1980s action flick (or the smart bullet from the 1984 Tom Selleck sci-fi disaster Runaway), then you get the idea. DARPA is focused on creating a maneuverable bullet (controlled by a guidance system) that moves with the target, adjusting in flight to slam into a human head and turn it into a red mist — thus writing an upbeat ending to tomorrow’s sniper stories.
When asked for further information in mid-December, Spearman told me that “the PM [project manager] for EXACTO is in the process of transitioning his replacement into DARPA, making neither of them available for interviews.” About a month later, the new project manager, he said, was still not up to speed and thus both officials remained unavailable for comment.
5. The New Blitz
As Nazi air power pounded London during World War II, England’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill sheltered in an underground bunker to stay alive. Today, the leaders of other nations have bigger, stronger bomb shelters than Churchill’s and the U.S. military wants the means to destroy them without generating the negative press that using nuclear weapons might incur.
To bust those bunkers, DARPA’s Strategically Hardened Facility Defeat program is investigating nuke-free, earth-penetrating munitions to counter the “threat posed by our adversaries’ use of hard and deeply buried targets.” Specifically aimed at the “senior leaders, command and control functions, and weapons of mass destruction” employed by “‘rogue’ nations,” these powerful, high-impact weapons will be designed to tunnel deep into the earth before exploding.
6. Things That Don’t Go Boom in the Night
Not all DARPA projects are designed to kill people and destroy hard targets. Some are geared toward delivering men, materiel, and someday robots to do the job instead. Others are aimed at intrusive surveillance, cyber-war, or making silver-screen dreams come true.
One long-term focus of military futurists and DARPA scientists has been the “urban environment.” (Think: the billion or more poor and potentially rebellious people already living in the slum cities of our planet.) The Urban Ops Hopper program, for example, seeks to develop small robots or semi-autonomous land drones — unmanned ground vehicles or UGVs in mil-speak — that can “adapt to the urban environment in real-time and provide the delivery of small payloads to any point of the urban jungle while remaining lightweight [and] small to minimize the burden on the soldier.” And yes, they might even hop.
For many years, the Pentagon has dreamed of persistent surveillance of planetary hot spots, developing, for instance, drone technologies to serve as spies in the skies across the globe. In 2003, Noah Shachtman, writing for the Village Voice, profiled the military’s Combat Zones That See, or CTS program. The rationale for the effort was, he wrote, to “protect our troops in cities like Baghdad, where… fleeting attackers have been picking off American fighters in ones and twos.” However, he added, “[D]efense experts believe the surveillance effort has a second, more sinister, purpose: to keep entire cities under an omnipresent, unblinking eye.”
All these years later, Americans are still in Baghdad, still periodically under siege there, and still, in the case of DARPA, dreaming of snooping on whole cities. With an acronym that brings to mind over-priced polo shirts, preppies on tennis courts, and an angry little alligator, DARPA’s Large Area Coverage Optical Search-while-Track and Engage, or LACOSTE program is dedicated to achieving the dream of CTS: imaging technology that will allow for “single sensor day/night persistent tactical surveillance of all moving vehicles in a large urban battlefield.” Think of it as placing an entire city in a panopticon where the jailor has true omniscience.
Through its Gravity Anomaly for Tunnel Exposure, or GATE, program, DARPA is also developing technologies that could someday allow drones, flying overhead, to “see” below the Earth’s surface and identify areas with underground tunnels. And just this month, DARPA kicked off a new program called Mind’s Eye “aimed at developing a visual intelligence capability for unmanned systems.”
Partnering with defense giant General Dynamics, Roomba vacuum cleaner manufacturer iRobot, and long-time Pentagon contractor Toyon Research Corporation, as well as scientists from military-academic powerhouses like Carnegie Mellon University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California Berkeley, and the University of Southern California, the Pentagon is exploring the idea of creating robots with artificial intelligence that could roll ahead of infantry patrols, scan the scene, analyze it, and figure out what to do next. In other words, the quest to build a robotic point man will now join a long list of DARPA projects certain to inspire fears of a future straight out of the Terminator films.
In 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, secret agent James Bond’s Lotus Esprit sports car morphed into a mini-submarine. Never one to let an old silver-screen dream go to waste, DARPA is now attempting to one-up 007. Through its Submersible Aircraft program, the agency seeks to “combine the speed and range of an airborne platform with the stealth of an underwater vehicle by developing a vessel that can both fly and submerge.” Revolutionary it may be as a machine, but the reasons for creating it remain thoroughly predictable: the “insertion and extraction of expeditionary forces at greater ranges.” In other words, it’s meant to facilitate deploying forces overseas, perhaps for the next Iraq or Afghan War.
DARPA and the New Arms Race
Recently, some military experts went into mild hysterics over the unveiling of China’s first stealth fighter plane and word that the Chinese military was developing a “carrier killer” missile. Never mind that the jet is not unlike the F-22, a relatively useless fighter in the U.S. arsenal, and is still years away from production; never mind that the man who garnered headlines for the aircraft-carrier story, Admiral Robert Willard, the alarmist chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, said intelligence indicated only “that the component parts of the anti-ship ballistic missile have been developed and tested.”
Still, advances like the proto-plane and not-yet-effective missile have made great hyperbolic copy for the military-corporate complex. Some pundits went so far as to suggest that U.S. military “weakness” in Asia was emboldening China.
From the Chinese point of view, it undoubtedly looks quite different. After all, the U.S. has all-but-encircled China with military bases, sites, and facilities — more than 100 in Japan, around 85 in South Korea, even a few in Central Asia — and has around 50,000 troops deployed to East Asia and the Pacific, and another 100,000 or more deployed in South Asia, as well as the largest Navy on the planet patrolling offshore waters.
As for the future, perhaps the Chinese don’t quite believe that DARPA’s Long Range Anti-Ship Missile is meant to take out Somali pirates, or that the Triple Target Terminator is geared to counter the al-Qaeda air corps (which mainly seems to consist of ill-constructed bomb-laced underwear and explosive printer cartridges on commercial aircraft), or that the U.S. military plans to deploy Magneto Hydrodynamic Explosive Munitions to fight off non-existent Taliban tanks.
Amid talk of a new arms race, the American people should know more about just what billions of their tax dollars are paying for and what message they’re sending to the world. With Beijing holding close to $1 trillion in U.S. debt, it’s unlikely that either country has actual military designs on the other. It’s far more likely that such DARPA projects (and pundit saber-rattling) will simply lead to needless expenditures on weapons designed for wars the U.S. won’t fight. In the end, if history is any guide, many of these weapons will become the overpriced means of killing lightly armed men, along with unarmed men, women, and children in one poverty-stricken country or another in the decades to come.
Unfortunately, Americans can’t begin to have an honest conversation about any of this until DARPA comes clean about exactly what billions of their tax dollars are being spent on — and why. Only then can the taxpayers begin to consider what message their future weapons plans are sending to the world and whether the U.S. really should be spending increasingly scarce dollars on making MAHEM.
10.10.10 World Governments now attempting to end the binary underground by launching a ‘False Flag” Computer Virus in attempt to bring down the world system of illusion: UCC
How amazing would it be if you could walk into McDonalds or Taco Bell and order that mid-morning double cheeseburger and 32 oz Mountain Dew from your mobile device? Just imagine… as you approach the restaurant, a menu pops up on your screen, the phone makes suggestions and helps you super-size your order, before you even set foot in the restaurant!
This advertiser’s wet dream is about to become reality, thanks to WPS (Wi-Fi Positioning System) infrastructure pioneered by CIA front company Skyhook (formerly Quarterscope) and currently being implemented by several other intelligence-connected companies, including Google, Apple, and Navizon (which is supplying data to Microsoft).
WPS geolocates wireless network devices using a database of known wireless access points, such as in coffee shops. Since at least 2004, WPS companies like Skyhook and Google have been war-driving for access point data. More about the technical aspects of this later.
How did you conclude that Skyhook is an intelligence front company?
Follow the money.
In 2008 former CIA director George Tenet became Managing Director of Allen & Company, an investment bank that provided funding for Skyhook’s WPS development and Google’s IPO (Initial Public Offering) in 2004, while he was still director of the CIA.
Skyhook was also funded by shadowy investment firm Alliance Capital. Frank Savage, Alliance Capital’s former board chairman, also served on the board of Lockheed Martin and Enron. Alliance was Enron’s largest shareholder.
Regardless of where the seed money came from, you can now buy this WPS data commercially. Intelligence agencies are putting a lot of effort into developing new tracking and identification technologies. Once they turn these technologies loose on society, the corporations exploit them, resulting in even more personal data being exchanged on private networks, which intelligence agencies can snoop on at will with their NSA Internet vacuum cleaners.
What exactly is WPS and how does it work?
Nearly every modern network connected device (phone, computer network card, cable modem, wireless router, bluetooth headset, etc), has a unique number called a MAC address (Media Access Control, not Apple) built in.
Please note that even if a mobile device doesn’t obtain an IP address when connecting to wi-fi, merely conducting a normal SSID (Session ID) scan requires exchanging MAC addresses with access points. Wireless devices scan for access points automatically, if you leave the default settings, resulting in a constant exchange of MAC addresses in both directions.
MAC addresses are embedded in beacon frames, which are part of the hardware link between wireless devices. Is it really necessary to use the MAC address during SSID scanning, rather than broadcasting information anonymously? I don’t know, but we’ll put that idea on the back burner for now.
Here is the relevant thing you need to know about them: they are unique and can identify any network connected device, wired or wireless, bluetooth, 802.11, etc. The good news is you can change a device’s MAC address.† The bad news is, that doesn’t really matter because that new number can be immediately correlated with your voice print and other biometric signatures in realtime by the mobile device (see Iphone trojan link below)
So my phone trades MAC addresses with a restaurant’s Wi-Fi. They show me the daily specials. Aren’t there potential benefits to something like this?
Yes, there are many potential benefits to advertisers, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies who want to track masses of people. WPS is going to dovetail beautifully with the NSA’s Main Core and Apple’s new biometric Iphone trojan.
The only potential benefit to you is that you will not have to speak to the person behind the counter and your latté will be ready faster.
Intelligence agencies and DARPA are creating an AI surveillance cloud right before our eyes. Don’t think that because you don’t have an Iphone means the 3 people sitting around you haven’t had their trojans activated to identify your voice print and snoop on your conversation. We already know how this ends.
You better not be reading qbit.cc either or you’re going on their shit list!
† But why is it that on Apple OSX 10.4 you can’t change the MAC address of your wireless card even as root? It simply fails with no error and keeps the original MAC address. I will find the answer to this question.