bill-swift - February 22, 2012
Remember Avatar, that movie James Cameron wrote and directed a few years ago? You know, the one with the larger-than-life blue creatures who would do everything they could to protect nature and their way of life? The whole plot of the movie revolved around Sully, who learned to control a laboratory-grown Avatar body with his mind and eventually used it to lead these creatures to victory in a battle versus man.
The people who exited the theater when the credits rolled were left to mull over a lot of huge thoughts in their heads. But who would have thought that the U.S. military would one day want to make use of the same technology? The military isn't exactly out to develop Avatar-like bodies per se, although they are interested in developing a system that would let soldiers use their minds to control droids in the battlefield.
To turn this into a reality, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has earmarked $7 million dollars into a project codenamed "Avatar." Pretty fitting name, right?
DARPA's 2013 budget describes it as follows: "The Avatar program will develop interfaces and algorithms to enable a soldier to effectively partner with a semi-autonomous bi-pedal machine and allow it to act as the soldier's surrogate."
In other words, DARPA wants to develop Androids that can do everything that human soldiers can, including "room clearing, sentry control [and] combat casualty recovery." It might sound like a pretty tall order, but keep in mind that the agency has already been able to fund successful attempts at controlling robots with thoughts, although it was monkeys that did the controlling.
Depending on how Avatar goes, we might see soldiers being replaced with their remote-controlled, robotic counterparts in the battlefield soon. And I, for one, don't think that that's a necessarily bad thing.
Article by Hazel Chua
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