DARPA’s brain injury ‘blast gauge’

This Editor, as our long-term readers know, has been following the issue and the dangers of soldier TBI and PTSD for several years. One of the problems with TBI is measuring the amount of blast a soldier has actually sustained in battle–and thus the medical danger. A cheering development is the further development of the ‘blast gauge’ developed by DARPA and the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), the testing of which we noted in mid-2012 [TTA 12 June 12]. It is now smaller than a wristwatch (now thumb-sized) and worn in three positions attached to a soldier’s body armor: chest, shoulder and back of helmet. As in the wristwatch model, there’s a red-yellow-green light for an instant read, in addition to the downloadable data which a medic can interpret on a laptop using a USB cable. It is now being worn by 11,000 US troops and 1000 Australian soldiers in Afghanistan. (more…)

DARPA’s $45million program to mine health data

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has just announced they are soliciting research proposals for a data mining/bioinformatics program to research the biology of cancer and signal pathways for cancer cells.

The anticipated budget for the “Big Mechanism” program is $45M over 42 months. The idea is to mine through worldwide scientific research on cancer, in order to find patterns within that mass of information which can be meaningfully interpreted. By the final 12 months of the project, mechanism developers should be able to identify targets for therapy based on their findings from the data.

The full text of the announcement tells us that although the domain of the Big Mechanisms program is cancer biology and systems biology, the goal of the program is to develop the capacity to integrate data/research more generally – more or less immediately – automatically or semi-automatically – into causal, explanatory models.

Read more: Military Times

Your Tuesday robot fix

Our first ‘robot fix’ for 2014 is a triple from Armed With Science (US Department of Defense):

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/scr_schaft.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]The DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials 2013, held 20-21 December in warm Homestead, Florida, turned out to be an early Christmas present for eight finalists out of 16 competitors. The top by far was the Robot S-One (left) from SCHAFT Inc. The remaining finalist developers in order were : Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition, Carnegie Mellon University + National Robotics Engineering Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology + Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, TRACLabs Inc., Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Labs. They will divide $8 million in funding to prepare for the final DARPA competition for a $2 million award at end of this year. Article. Previously in TTA: DARPA field competition

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/TALOS_Future_Army_Soldier_Display_Wide-600X350-526×350.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]The TALOS is an outgrowth of both exoskeleton research and body armor, in development by the US Special Operations Command. “The goal is to provide operators lighter, more efficient full-body ballistics protection and super-human strength.” The suit has antennae and computers to provide enhanced situational awareness; cooled and heated; replete with sensors to monitor heart rate, temperature and body position–and may be able to deliver oxygen and hemorrhage controls. Research on this may also advance assistive exoskeletons for the disabled or prosthetics. Socom Leads Development of ‘Iron Man’ Suit

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Overrun-by-Robots1-183×108.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]’Start ’em young!’ could be the rallying cry of the 2014 VEX All-American Robotics Competition. Sponsored by the US Army and the Robotics Education Competition Foundation, the competition is designed to stimulate STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education prior to university. This article is about a high school and middle school competition in Texas. Overrun by Robots and STEM Powered by Robotics

Brain stimulation therapy explored by DARPA

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/SUBNETS_144_144.png” thumb_width=”150″ /]The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is investigating the use of DBS (deep brain stimulation) implants for possible treatment of several chronic neuropsychological conditions. They are seeking to evaluate neural and behavioral processes in PTSD, TBI, major depression, borderline personality disorder, general anxiety disorder, substance abuse/addiction and fibromyalgia/chronic pain through the SUBNETS program (Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies). All these conditions are on the rise with service members and veterans. DBS is currently used in neurological diseases that impair motor function–Parkinson’s and dystonia–and is being researched for treatment of depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, Tourette’s and epilepsy. SUBNETS is also linked to NIH’s BRAIN Initiative. Armed With Science article, the SUBNETS pre-solicitation (Photo courtesy of DARPA)

‘For realsie’ take 2: DARPA seeking Warrior Web ‘super suit’ (US)

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Warrior_Web_Boston_Dynamics_sent-425×283.jpg” thumb_width=”175″ /]The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) continues its work on its version of an exoskeleton, called previously a ‘mech suit’ and in this article a ‘super suit’, to ease the load on soldiers who routinely carry 80-100lbs in the field and rough terrain. They are now up to ‘Web Task B’ which pulls together the ‘Task A’ components into a prototype ‘fully integrated undersuit system’ that ‘significantly boosts endurance, carrying capacity and overall soldier effectiveness—all while using no more than 100 watts of power.’ (Concept at left, DARPA photo)  Proposals can be in one or more of five areas specified. Proposer’s Day was today, but information is here and proposals are due by 4 October. Hey DARPA! Where’s My Super Suit? (Armed With Science) Previously in TTA: ‘Warrior Web’ becoming a ‘for realsie thing’ [11 June]

DARPA Virtual Robotics Challenge winners (US)

‘Tis the season for competitions to end and winners to be announced. Earlier this month, the virtual part of DARPA’s multi-level 2013-2014 Robotics Challenge engaged 26 teams from eight countries, both DARPA-funded and ‘open’ (unfunded) competitors, in a series of software tests for specific tasks applied to a simulated ATLAS robot. There were nine winners who will move ahead to the physical DRC Trials with a real ATLAS robot in December 2013. DARPA/VRC press release, Gizmag.

Got robot? And perhaps make $2 million. (US)

DARPA’s annual Robotics Challenge (DRC) is served up again for 2013. This round they are looking for the ‘next gen’ in disaster response and performance in hazardous areas. Entries will be field tested in three stages over this year and next at increasing levels of difficulty:  The Virtual Robotics Challenge, the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials, and the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals. And as the writer put it, “you get to build a robot, designed to help people, for money.” See more and application links at Armed With Science.

‘Warrior Web’ becoming a ‘for realsie thing’

Interesting introduction in this Armed with Science article from the US Department of Defense describing DARPA’s ‘Warrior Web’ or ‘mech suit’ that is a soft, lightweight exoskeleton designed to help the average warrior humping 100-lb. equipment loads in rough terrain. In the Army, ‘for realsie’ means advanced prototype testing, this by the  Army Research Laboratory Human Research and Engineering Directorate (ARL HRED, another one of those acronyms) in a  five-month series of tests to evaluate multiple prototypes. Real progress and adoption here will have knock-on effects for advancing civilian development of assistance devices for the disabled and elderly. Includes 0:17 demo video. Warrior Web Prototype Takes First Steps

Robots go squishy, exoskeletons do not, and here’s your drink

Gizmag profiles another soft robot, this out of University of California Berkeley with a hydrogel/graphene layer that causes it to flex when exposed to light. A natural to combine with the Harvard/Wyss/DARPA chameleon [TTA 23 Aug 12] or, according to the article, drug delivery and tissue engineering. 0:36 video demos the gel in a ‘hand’ flipping its ‘fingers’ by laser light. Soft robots could benefit from new light-controlled hydrogel

Honda, one of the many companies developing exoskeletons to assist movement, is the first to lease 100 of them to 50 hospitals in Japan for testing. After 14 years of development, it’s about time. The current model is 2.6 kg (5.7 lbs.) and according to Honda, will “improve the symmetry of the timing of each leg lifting from the ground and extending forward, and to promote a longer stride for an easier walk.” Exoskeletons have been developed on three purposes. The first is assistance to the elderly and those in rehabilitation (Honda’s, Cyberdyne’s HAL, EKSO Bionics, Argo ReWalk TTA 29 June 11). The second is industrial (Honda as well.) The third is military, to support soldiers’ strength in the field and in combat conditions (RB3D, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin; also DARPA/Harvard/Wyss TTA 27 July 12Honda begins leasing Walking Assist Exoskeleton (Gizmag)

And after all this, wouldn’t you like a drink? Coming right up…. Cornell University’s Personal Robotics Lab adapted a Willow Garage PR-2 to serve you a beer or your favorite beverage. For a robot, anticipating human actions is a real challenge. That simple top-up of a drink can, if actions are not correctly interpreted, mean a big spill. So the Cornellians programmed the robot with 120 3D videos of people in everyday tasks, broken down into subtasks that the robot then recompiles into models of different activities, and then equipped the PR-2 with a Microsoft Kinect scanner to build up a 3D map of the objects present, so that the robot can then ‘observe’ how they might be used. It gives you pause to realize that simple everyday activities are made up of a myriad of subactions. Robby, pour me a tall one….Cornell develops beer-pouring robot that anticipates people’s actions (Gizmag again)

Microgripping and touching robots

Need that tissue sample, doctor? You may be laying aside your scalpel and forceps for a swarm of microgripping robots that you place and retrieve.  David H. Gracias, PhD. and his Johns Hopkins team has developed star-shaped nickel metal discs of only 300 micrometers in size which snip bits of tissue. Using a magnetic catheter, the microgrippers are then gathered and removed–hopefully. Gizmag; study in Gastroenterology.

Last week, the TakkTile, this week, piezotronic transistors. Thousands of them arrayed, and designed to give robots–and touchscreens–that extra and almost human edge in touch sensitivity. The transistors in thin, flat material can sense changes in their own polarity when pressure is applied due to their zinc oxide composition. Initial use will probably be in touchscreens, but the Georgia Tech project’s supporters–the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the US Air Force (USAF), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Knowledge Innovation Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences–are also considering its use in prosthetic skin or limbs. Gizmag.

TBI drug in potential trial with former NFL players’ association

Breaking news in the US today on a topic we’ve been following. Maryland-based Neuralstem, a developer of neurogenic drugs, announced this morning that it is working with the National Football League Alumni Association (NFLAA) to develop a trial of their NSI-189 for treating NFL alumni members suffering from traumatic brain injuries (TBI). According to their release, NSI-189 (or NS1-189, both are used) is currently in a Phase Ib clinical trial to treat major depressive disorder. Because it appears to work by stimulating neurons in the hippocampus, a region of the brain that atrophies in depression, this could also apply to brain injury. While this announcement is perhaps more than it seems–a Phase I clinical trial is ‘early days’, to make it through all four phases (I-IV) may take a decade, and now the developer is switching around the treatment condition–the drug itself has received support from DARPA and NIH which are both closely concerned with TBI. In addition, working with the NFLAA will help Neuralstem find subjects for the trials. PR Newswire via Baltimore Business Journal 

Previously in TTA on TBI and the NFL: Further sad confirmation of CTE, Brain injury research study, NFL donates $30 million to NIH, Combating TBI on the battle and football fields.

Short takes for Thursday

Curious about the further adventures of the HAPIFork that debuted at CES 2013 and got a whole slew of awards? Spend a minute moment (audio 0:51) at lunch with two Health 2.0 writers and inventor Jacques Lépine. Don’t eat too fast or it will buzz–and you can see your eating patterns on HAPIFork’s online dashboard via Bluetooth to mobile or cable to PC. It finally made it to Kickstarter (20 percent to their goal) and $89 will get you one in September…..What is the Synergistic Physio-Neuro Platform (SynPhNe–pronounced ‘symphony’)? A new stroke rehabilitation system from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University for patients which have lost the use of an arm. The arm band monitors muscle movements through guided exercises, and if one can’t be completed, uses the sensor readings to determine why, and then explains it to the user so that they can improve. Gizmag….DARPA’s ARM (Autonomous Robotic Manipulation) is a heavyweight set of two robotic arms to perform coordinated actions and manipulate objects on task-level commands. Currently in test, potential is in heavy moving or dangerous situations including defusing unexploded IEDs. Have Two Arms, Will Work (Armed With Science)….Skype ‘n’ psych a no-no, according to Marlene M. Maheu, PhD, head of the TeleMental Health Institute, due to privacy concerns with the popular online video platform–and even secure telemedicine platforms may have liability problems for psychiatric use. Psychiatric Times.

Wearable alert: DARPA’s tinier-than-a-penny nav device

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/timu.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Misfit, UnderArmour, Fraunhofer Institute, Samsung, Apple, GuideMeHome and even Avery Dennison, listen up: the US Department of Defense via DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a/k/a the Internet’s real dad) researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a timing and inertial measurement unit (TIMU) that monitors motion, acceleration, time and positioning–without GPS. This navigation chip packs internal clocks, gyroscopes and accelerometers into 10 cubic millimeters fitting quite comfortably in the center of a US penny. Defense usage is backup for military devices in case of malfunctioning/unavailable GPS. In the civilian market, the easy one is wearables particularly for safety (e.g. gait detection, falling)–but the other is backup to in-car and cell phone systems dependent on GPS which, if knocked out, can present inconvenience to hazard. Extreme Miniaturization…. (DARPA.mil)  PopSci’s once-over-lightly.