inventions The Coolest DARPA Projects  

Mike Rothschild
622 votes 189 voters 6.3k views 17 items Embed

Since its founding in 1958, DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has kept the United States as a technological leader in robotics, electronics, communications, and combat. President Eisenhower first authorized what was then known as ARPA as a response to the Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite in 1957, and the Agency quickly became known for its far-fetched research,  its startling advances, and its secrecy.

Inventions by DARPA have changed the way we communicate, work, and travel - both in peace and war. Our list of DARPA projects includes concepts crucial to the internet, GPS, interactive maps, advanced computing, and transportation. And DARPA researchers are currently working on an astounding array of projects, everything from robotic dogs to healing microchips. Much of it won't work, and some of it won't ever see the light of day - but everything DARPA does keeps the US on the forefront of technological dominance.

This DARPA projects list features some of the coolest, most attention-getting innovations DARPA has been involved with. Which inventions and breakthroughs do you think are the coolest in DARPA history? Vote them up below!
1 70 VOTES

The Internet

The Internet is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Coolest DARPA Projects
Photo: via Wikimedia

While many people claim to be the originators of what's now the Internet, without research and development by DARPA, it never would have happened.

In August 1962, American psychologist and computer scientist JCR Licklider wrote a groundbreaking paper called “On-Line Man Computer Communication" where he described a connected global network of computers that could communicate with each other.

A few months later, he was appointed director of the new Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) at ARPA, as DARPA was known then. He was given the task of developing a network to connect Department of Defense computers across locations, and other Internet pioneers were brought in to supplement his work.

The first host-to-host connection between PCs on what became called Arpanet was established at 10.30pm on October 29, 1969. By December, a four-node network was up and running, the first email was sent across it in 1972, and its users started referring to it as the "Internet" in 1973.

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2 56 VOTES

Self-Guided Bullets

Self-Guided Bullets is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Coolest DARPA Projects
Photo: via Twitter

Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) will be the first smart, self-guided bullets, able to change direction once fired. Using lasers affixed onto a target, the bullets feature optical tips that can detect these signatures. Signals are then sent to tiny fins that help guide the bullet towards that laser signature - even changing their path during flight.

In 2014, the Pentagon successfully conducted a live-fire test utilizing EXACTO rounds, and more research is currently underway - though the exact details are classified.

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3 33 VOTES


Avatar is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Coolest DARPA Projects
Photo: Kempton/Flickr

Most people saw James Cameron's Avatar and marveled at its immersive 3-D world. DARPA watched it and saw the future - human controlled combat machines that can fight in harsh environments without putting their operators in danger.

Little is known about the Avatar program, which was revealed as a line item in DARPA's 2012 budget, but it definitely involved mind-controlled robots, making use of “key advancements in telepresence and remote operation of a ground system."
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4 46 VOTES

Google Maps

Google Maps is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Coolest DARPA Projects
Photo: via Twitter

DARPA helped to fund the technology that would become the core of Google Maps and Street View. In 1978, a team from MIT was tasked with developing a way for soldiers to navigate urban environments, inspired by Israel building a mockup of Entebbe Airport in Uganda.

The resulting technology was known as Aspen Movie Map, and allowed users to take a virtual tour of Aspen, CO. It involved a car fitted with stop-motion 16mm cameras driving down every street taking photos in four directions. The footage was loaded into a database and eventually created an interactive map of the entire city.

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