Архив метки: DARPA

DARPA Launches QR-Locating Game As Test Of Distributed Resource Gathering


Say the Mayans are right, and a meteor or some other catastrophe strikes the Earth sometime later this year. Assuming we’re not all wiped out by the impact, emergency services worldwide are going to need to do some serious canvassing to assess damage, resources, and form a picture of the disaster.

DARPA is running a little game, called CLIQRQuest, to look into how such a network of people might do such a task. But instead of asking people to snap pictures of reservoirs and hospitals, they’re giving cash prizes for finding QR codes.

Not just any QR codes, of course; the agency has distributed codes like the one at right throughout the continental U.S. “to represent the dispersion of resource concentrations throughout the country.” So there won’t be many pasted to signposts in the great plains, but presumably there will be lots in population- and resource-rich areas like larger cities and ports. How many are there? DARPA isn’t saying, though they helpfully note that the number is “finite.”

Yet it’s not just a scavenger hunt. After all, it would be difficult for an individual or even a good-sized team to physically scan however many tags are out there. And DARPA has already conducted experiments that have proven the efficacy of crowdsourcing a task like that.

So, as DARPA puts it, this is more a test of exchanging information via social media. You’ve got people all over the place scanning these codes, which are supposed to represent water, food, generators, and so on. You advertise what you’ve got, leverage your social connections, start a website, make an app — however you want to do it. The winner is either the person who collects all the codes or the person with the most when the contest ends on the 12th.

You’re not going to rank even if you scanned every code for a hundred miles. You need the others to volunteer their information, and they need you to do the same, with the shared goal of getting all that info in one place as fast as possible. It’s a fairly good representation of the problem they are investigating.

The contest is going on right now and you can join in if you like — just register at the spartan contest webpage and start submitting codes you’ve gotten by whatever means you have available.

DARPA Launches QR-Locating Game As Test Of Distributed Resource Gathering

U.S. Government & Military To Get Secret-Worthy Android Phones


The amount of stuff we trust to fly in and out of our smartphones is astounding. Just look at what happened when a couple of reporters got access to an unwitting (and rather unlucky) Apple employee’s iMessages alone — within days, they learned more about him than most people know about their closest friends.

Now, imagine all the stuff that could fly in and out of a government official’s phone, or that of a highly-ranked member of the military. Forget saucy texts and booty pictures — we’re talking about state secrets, here.

Looking to keep their secrets underwraps while on the go, the U.S government is working on a build of Android custom-tailored to meet their security requirements.

Word of the project comes from CNN, who notes that U.S. officials/soldiers aren’t currently allowed to send any classified data over their smartphones. If they need to transmit anything that might sink ships (so to speak), they currently need to find a secured (generally meaning hardwired) line hooked to an approved device.

Here’s the gist of the project:

  • A limited number of soldiers will get the phones first, then federal agencies, then possibly contractors
  • The U.S. won’t be building their own hardware — that’d be too expensive. Instead, they’ll be buying commercially available devices and reflashing them.
  • They hoped to be able to offer iOS devices, but it’s not going to happen. CNN notes that federal officials met with Apple to request that they share their source — as you’d probably guess, Apple wasn’t too cool with that idea.
  • Surprisingly, users of the handsets will be able to install new applications, though the handsets will put a specific emphasis on exactly what information the application can access and what it’s currently sending. Seems unlikely that they’d give these things full Android Market access, though — that’d be rather silly.
  • The project is being funded by DARPA, with the NSA evaluating it as they go (while working on a version of their own, curiously.)

Most of the project’s details are still underwraps, but this is all still rather interesting. What hardware might they use? If DARPA makes any substantial security improvements to Android’s kernel, might that work make it back to the official branch? Might this work eventually be monetized (remember, Siri was born as a DARPA project) and offered to enterprises looking for a locked-down version of Android — and what does that mean for RIM/BlackBerry?

U.S. Government & Military To Get Secret-Worthy Android Phones

Google, Vocre, Apple, And Now Raytheon Diving Into Cloud Speech Recognition


If you were following along at Disrupt SF, perhaps you caught Vocre’s impressive demonstration of their near-real-time spoken translation app. As I was watching, I was picturing the gears turning behind the veneer of the app, though: the cloud transcription, translation, and speech APIs, and how there’s a nice big market for this kind of thing. Google knows it, and of course we’ve had speech on Android for a long time. Apple knows it, but took its time to release it in a more consumer-focused package.

Now even defense contractor Raytheon is getting into the game. Their TransTalk app, which has emerged from the soup of defense contracts and government research funds that is DARPA, is specifically designed for deployment in the middle east.

It’s for Android, which jives with the military’s earlier lean towards the operating system, though it look simple enough that it wouldn’t be much of a task for the defense giant to port it to a government-sponsored fork or whatever gets decided on.

The app itself (running on a Motorola Atrix) is a simple affair; it’s meant for deployment with English-speaking troops and has very little in the way of decoration. You select a language (Arabic, Pashto, and Dari are supported, as these are the primary dialects in the middle east theater), speak to it, and it prints and speaks a translation. The other speaker does the same, but pressing a different button.

So the app isn’t noteworthy for its purpose, but what is interesting is that it isn’t a self-contained app, but rather calls out to the cloud. Military applications tend to concentrate as much functionality as possible on the local device, because as you may have heard, warfare tends to be on the unpredictable side, and data infrastructure isn’t guaranteed. So cloud solutions, as practical as they may be for a consumer application, have been viewed with skepticism by the military establishment.

On the other hand, could the choice be viewed instead as shrewd, considering the efforts that DARPA and others are going to in the creation of a connected battlefield? My guess is that this isn’t actually a strategic move, but a pragmatic one: they bait the hook with a cloud solution and reel it in when they’ve got the resources to make it something locally-hosted. Last year they showed a similar app but on a larger platform. Miniaturization isn’t a trivial step, and they probably thought it worthwhile to gauge interest with this cloud version before going all in. Right now the military smartphone platform is still in flux so it would be unwise to start loading their eggs into one basket or another. But decentralized processing isn’t such a bad bet to make, and Raytheon seems to understand that.

Google, Vocre, Apple, And Now Raytheon Diving Into Cloud Speech Recognition