Brain Injuries, Recycling Rare Earth Elements and Improving AI: DARPA in June

In the first half of this month, The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency provided a number of updates on new and ongoing initiatives. DARPA’s researchers have been busy with everything from AI to brain injuries and recycling.

On 2 Juned, DARPA announced that it is “developing safe and effective integrated countermeasures to prevent brain injury” under the Cornerstone program. The aim of the project is to expand countermeasures beyond physical protection and the limited treatment options which are available today. According to DARPA program manager Dr. Eric Van Gieson:

“At this time, no treatments for TBI [Traumatic Brain Injury]have progressed past Phase II clinical trials because they focus on providing a post-exposure countermeasure. […] Cornerstone aims to improve mission execution and warfighter protection by reorienting the research community to stop what happens at a molecular level in the first few seconds of exposure to blast or impact. Through this lens, Cornerstone performers will focus on building safe and effective integrated countermeasures–preventing TBI from happening at all.”

On the day after that, DARPA called for proposals to help achieve its goals under the new Assured Neuro Symbolic Learning and Reasoning (ANSR) program. The point of ANSR is to create a more trustworthy AI capable of higher levels of autonomy. More concretely, DARPA wants the partners it selects to utilize “hybrid (neuro-symbolic) AI algorithms that deeply integrate symbolic reasoning with data-driven learning” which can operate fully autonomously in a dynamic, urban environment.

On 10 June, DARPA announced that it has selected teams from MIT, Iowa State University, Arizona State University and TG Companies LLC for its Recycling at the Point of Disposal (RPOD) program. RPOD seeks to find ways to effectively recycle rare-earth minerals from e-waste in an efficient, low-footprint manner. Rare-earth minerals have been a key focus point of DAPR in recent years due to their importance in critical supply chains.