Army Tries Holograms, Quantum Computing

Army Tries Holograms, Quantum Computing

It’s like something out of “The Terminator.” Self-aware virtual humans, regenerating body parts on “nano-scaffolding,” mind controlled weapons — all the stuff of movie robots, comic heroes and otherworldly tomes.

But for some, this kind of higher-than-high tech is as real as life and death.

Dr. John Parmentola, Director of Research and Laboratory Management with the Army’s science and technology office, told military bloggers Nov. 3 that the Army is “making science fiction into reality” by creating realistic holographic images, generating virtual humans and diving into quantum computing.

It may sound like a trailer for the next “Star Trek” installment, but Parmentola is deadly serious.

For the last several years, the Army has kept a close eye on research into areas of science that might have once been called “paranormal;” its practitioners drummed out of the academy as kooks and nut-jobs. But now the idea of implanting specific memories or erasing damaging ones, for example, isn’t mere fantasy.

Dr. Joe Tsien, a neurobiologist at the Medical College of Georgia and co-director of the Brain Discovery Institute, has been able to erase certain memories from mice subjected to traumatic experiences in a laboratory environment, Parmentola said. From a practical standpoint, the Army could use this kind of technology to help Soldiers who’ve been psychologically scarred by staring death straight in the eye.

“You can imagine people who have horrifying memories, it would be great if we could eliminate them so this way they’re not plagued by these memories uncontrollably,” Parmentola said. “We have Soldiers that have this problem, like PTSD and traumatic brain injury, but there are many other examples that occur in the civilian world.”

The Army plans to highlight Tsien’s and other research into the ragged edges of science fiction at the 26th Army Science Conference in Orlando next month, where experts in neurorobotics, high-tech computer displays and quantum physics will explain how Soldiers could benefit from the types of radical science most have only seen on episodes of the “X-Files.”

Take mind communication, for example. Experiments have shown that certain thoughts generate electrical impulses on the surface of the scalp, Parmentola said. Think commandos who can stealthily communicate without using their voice or Soldiers who control weapons with their thoughts from a distance over a wireless connection.

“You could wear a cap that is sensitive to these electrical impulses, pick up the pattern and amplify those small signals send it over a wire [or wirelessly] connect it to a device,” Parmentola said. “So if you think of a thought ‘turn on,’ it will automatically turn on a computer or that device.”

Or how about regenerative medicine? Parmentola said researchers aren’t far away from being able to grow back body parts — both internal organs and limbs — that have been lost in combat or other accidents. The technique focuses on the use if molecular-sized particles that act as a kind of scaffolding to support the growth of body tissue — say, a finger — and dissolves as the biological material solidifies.

It’s not that unlike what a salamander can do when it loses a limb.

“We’re beginning to understand how this occurs and if we can, it holds the hope of, being able to regrow limbs on people,” Parmentola said.

Then some of this space-aged research takes a turn into the Einsteinian world of quantum mechanics and particle physics — places most mere mortals who simply hump hills with ammo-laden rucks fear to tread.

“Quantum ghost imaging,” for example, is as complicated as it sounds. Basically it’s a phenomenon of physics that allows images to be rendered through the pairing of photons that do not reflect or bounce off an object, but off of other photons that did, thereby creating a sort of “ghost” image of it. This technology would enable the Army to generate images of personnel and equipment through clouds and smoke.

“It’s like having a tracing tool … that goes over the image and that’s connected to another one on a piece of paper that exactly imitates what it is that you are tracing with the other pen,” Parmentola said. “It takes advantage of a remarkable property of quantum mechanics to try and do this.”

And if you do end up at the Army Science Conference next month, don’t be startled by the three-dimensional holographic image of a soldier talking to you (not that the regenerated arm, mind-controlled computer or implanted memories won’t freak you out enough) as you walk down the hall. It might just be the virtual human Army researchers are creating to make simulators and war games more realistic for training, Parmentola said.

They’re working on creating “photorealistic looking and acting human beings” that can think on their own, have emotions and talk in local slang.

“I actually interact with virtual humans in terms of asking them questions and they’re responding,” Parmentola said.

To test out the computer generated humans’ “humanity,” Parmentola and his researchers want to unleash some of their cyber Soldiers into so-called “massively multi-player online games” such as “World of Warcraft” or “Eve Online” — games frequented by thousands of super-competitive human players in teams of virtual characters fighting battles that can last for days.

“We want to use the massively multi-player online game as an experimental laboratory to see if they’re good enough to convince humans that they’re actually human,” he said.

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“To test out the computer generated humans’ “humanity,” Parmentola and his researchers want to unleash some of their cyber Soldiers into so-called “massively multi-player online games” such as “World of Warcraft” or “Eve Online” — games frequented by thousands of super-competitive human players in teams of virtual characters fighting battles that can last for days.”

Hehe, that’s great! It’ll be like a Turing test.

Although hopefully it’s not a learning system, because it’ll really be sad if the first AI’s first words are “LOL I PWN U NOOBZ”…

This kind of research is one of those areas where a thorough background in sci-fi is very useful. A lot of the social, psychological, and other issues have already been debated and discussed and thrashed out and illustrated there; implanted memories are a big one, but also things like regeneration, highly-advanced computing, all that sort of thing.

Indeed, I remember reading some fiction where warbot AI were “grown” by having them fight in simulated combat, thousand of times every hour, you start out with a blank neural net and let it build its own tactics.

This is really exciting!

I would like to think that congress has the fortitude to continue funding advances like this. Unfortunately, aiming for science fiction is expensive and always carries an elevated level of financial risk. That doesn’t negate the fact that we should always strive to engineer beyond our wildest dreams.



AI’s first words “LOL I PWN U NOOBZ”… posted by DensityDuck. Thats frikking hilarious man! So true how the only way they can truly pass that test is by talking smack. Imagine a bunch of virtual soldiers talkin smack. We could form a virtual war vs the AI! So much freakin fun! Then we can discriminate against them and stuff. We coulld tell em their no good computer brains cant defend against us real people.

you have no idea what you are playing with. God help you

This is cool, but very scary. Just think if they can master erasing memories, then they could also install memories. Never played the guitar? Upload Eddie Van Halen into your memory. Bing, instant guitar god. Something like that anyway. Would be cool for the military to upload missions to the entire company and have everyone know it inside out. Scary, scary..
Honestly, my opinion is not to mess with mother nature, or she will eventually kick your A$$.

I have played a fair amount of WoW and I have never been certain any of the other players were actually human. I am curious how the researchers are going to know whether they have convinced the other players. With that being said, the WoW community is not known for being particularly intelligent, I mean hey, try to make sense of my post. ;)

Great come join EVE and get your butt’s kicked.
Eve has a dynamic market system and i doubt AI’s will be able to sue it fully, maybe they can suck a roid though.

I have played WoW myself for almost 2 yrs, and I have definately seen bots(non-human players)in the game. I really think that human error will prevail in the scripting for the AI to try to make itself appear human

Doing that would be a violation of the games EULA. Maybe they can manage to force Blizzard to accept that, but it would be a little more difficult to force CCP as it is not an american company.

Horrible… can anyone say skynet?

I’d say that at least 30% of EVE online players are bots already! 90% of mining is done by bots and a good percentage of trading (the .01 iskers), 0.0 ratting (wonder how they disconnect/cloak the instant that you enter local and don’t reappear even if you are in a noob ship until you leave?), courier missions as well as I am sure semi-automated kill mission bots.

AI bots in PVP would be a step forward, but with PVP slowing down I’d think you could write a macro that would be able to handle some of the engagements pretty simply.

While the negative potential is great, so is the positive side, but a close look at forseeing consequences is in order.
Scenario 1: Implanting memories — instant expert with total, but what happens when users hit the economy. Want a PHD in something? Plug fact lets all plug in and be experts…if you have the funds. What impact would this have on society and the economy if certain citizens had these abilities? I’m not raining on the parade. I suspect these advances will come regardless of our desires and trying to prevent them is a mistake as there is certainly means and intent outside the US. We would be better served being on the cutting edge then left in it’s wake trying to react to opponents who had capabilities of which we weren’t aware.

“Jackie November 6th, 2008 at 1:13 pm
God help you.”

I certainly hope so.

Less likely one could be able to skip the commercial programing already buzzing in our unwanted pop-up screens…but we might eventually prefer them!

erasing memories sounds like something from the book 1984.

This is exactly what the Doctor ordered…no more conscience. This memory technology would have come in handy at Nurenburg. After over 22 years in our Army, I can say with authority that the government has enough of our brains already.

It makes absolutely no sense why they would want to test it on WoW so this article is clearly BS.

It makes no sense that they would want to test it against millions of other people and see if it can convincingly interact?

I assume you do very little in research and nothing at all in artificial intelligence.

There’s no way that anyone can script how to play EVE-Online like a human.

I call Bullshit tbh.

Total Recall, anyone?

My father had told me about his Dick Tracy comic books from his childhood — Dick Tracy had a wrist watch by which he could communicate with his boss (or whomever else). Then a few decades later, we come out with ultra small, portable communication devices, first came cellphones, then even smaller devices.
DaVinci came up with the flying machine idea, and more than a few decades later we’ve got the ultra-fast jets!
I watched Deep Space 9’s holograph suites and just new that they would be coming to reality in my lifetime. This is a great article, and I’m thrilled America is on the forefront of the future!

Well as a SPC in the Army with almost 3 years in I have been playing online games for way over 10 years now. I am currently playing WoW, and would love to be apart of this laboratory test. Anyone would love the chance to be apart of this test.

Playing wow since the day it rolled out as well as other online games.….and would love the chance to play and try new ideas. Former soldier Sgt owens.

They’ve been doing experiments on drugs that erase the extreme emotional attachment to some memories. You have them still, but they don’t keep you up at night or give you even a twinge.

Scientific American has a good piece this month that dovetails well. It’s about the feasibility of uploading memories and experiences.

But, as far as the WoW thing goes, I play too. People on there are idiots. The “AI” on the last Turing Test would have passed hands down if we were judges.

Being that this is the Army we’re talking about, I’m surprised that there’s not more simpler words being used with popup pictures and finger paintings to get the point across. This should be a test involving people of intelligence not people who need pictures to tell them how to utilize an MRE. If this were being handled by the DoD I could understand but the Army? Be prepared for IP bannings. Real gamers despise bots and can tell them apart from actual players. Your test will fail and when it blows up in your face, don’t say we didn’t warn ya.

Daddy: Dumb people aren’t allowed into the Army. Dumb people drop grenades and shoot their buddies and get high on duty and, in general, get themselves and everyone around them killed. Dumb people are sent back to the Pentagon and put in charge of procurement ;)

Imagine Skynet, addressing foolish defeated humans contemplating their mediocrity, speaking last words before wiping their bodies out:

If quantum physics defies the classical thoughts, then all of this is certainly possible.

“A particle at two different places at the same time?”

All of this is highly possible, and (Your Daddy) military grade AI bots would not look like normal bots in any case, that would defy the point of their tests.

“Skynet” is a reality, it’s the most economic and feasible approach for human-like AI machines. No ways that a super computer is gonna fit on a human body sized robot any time soon :)

It might be inevitable that this will happen but I don’t think it’s as great as advancement as all of you think.

Think 1984.

“To test out the computer generated humans’ “humanity,” Parmentola and his researchers want to unleash some of their cyber Soldiers into so-called “massively multi-player online games” such as “World of Warcraft” or “Eve Online” — games frequented by thousands of super-competitive human players in teams of virtual characters fighting battles that can last for days.”

Blizz has rules against any kind of automated or self-driving program being used in WoW. Yet another example of the Army thinking themselves above the law xD

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