Swarming robots to help small urban ground units

To accomplish these goals, OFFSET seeks to develop an active swarm tactics development ecosystem and supporting open systems architecture, including:

  • An advanced human-swarm interface to enable users to monitor and direct potentially hundreds of unmanned platforms simultaneously in real time. The program intends to leverage rapidly emerging immersive and intuitive interactive technologies (augmented and virtual reality, voice-, gesture-, and touch-based) to create a novel command interface with immersive situational awareness and decision presentation capabilities. The interface would also incorporate a swarm interaction grammar, similar in concept to playbooks coaches in soccer, basketball, and other games prepare with pre-made plays combined with “freestyle” design tools that allow dynamic action and reaction based on real-time conditions in the field.
  • A real-time, networked virtual environment that would support a physics-based, swarm tactics game. In the game, players would use the interface to rapidly explore, evolve, and evaluate swarm tactics to see which would potentially work best on various unmanned platforms in the real world. Users could submit swarm tactics and track their performance from test rounds on a leaderboard, as well as dynamically interact with other users.
  • A community-driven swarm tactics exchange. This curated, limited access program portal would house apps to help participants design swarm tactics and combine collective behaviors, as well as swarm algorithms. It would provide these key ingredients to an extensible architecture for end-user-generated swarm tactics and help create a lasting community to innovate and cultivate the most effective tactics, with the potential to integrate third-party tactics and playtesters in the future.

OFFSET aims to demonstrate its technologies through frequent live experiments with various unmanned air and ground platforms. Every six months, operational vignettes of progressively increasing complexity would challenge both the swarm architecture and the developed swarm tactics across numerous technological and operational test variables, such as swarm size, proportion of air and ground platforms, and mission duration. Users would employ the swarm interface to test the best of the virtual tactics in the real world, and interactively supply their unmanned platforms with near-real-time tactics updates using automated deployment technologies.

“We’re interested in developing practical swarm systems in an agile way, so future operators will have the tools they need to outsmart and outperform urban adversaries,” Chung said.

DARPA has scheduled a Proposers Day on Monday, 30 January 2017, at DARPA’s offices in Arlington, Virginia, to clarify the OFFSET program vision and answer questions from potential proposers. Advance registration is required: http://ow.ly/ANZX306573t. Additional details about the event are provided in a Special Notice: http://go.usa.gov/x8WCa. Full program details, including instructions for submitting a proposal, will be available in a forthcoming Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) available on the Federal Business Opportunities website (http://go.usa.gov/xkhCj).