DARPA, Santa Continue HO HO HO-liday Team-Up


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DARPA’s High-speed Optimized Handling of Holiday Operations (HO HO HO) initiative is celebrating its fourth anniversary this year, and the Agency is proud to continue its tradition of sharing breakthrough technologies to help Santa Claus and his elves more quickly and efficiently complete their holiday duties.

Image Caption: DARPA’s High-speed Optimized Handling of Holiday Operations (HO HO HO) initiative aims to help Santa Claus and his elves more quickly and efficiently complete their holiday duties by providing access to research from numerous DARPA programs. This year’s contributions include technologies developed through Targeted Neuroplasticity Training (TNT) (top left), Ground Truth (top center),Video Synthetic Aperture Radar (ViSAR)(top right), Atomic Magnetometer for Biological Imaging In Earth’s Native Terrain (AMBIIENT)(bottom left), Warfighter Analytics using Smartphones for Health (WASH)(bottom center), and Hallmark (bottom right). Click below for high-resolution image.

This year, Santa and his North Pole crew have been granted special access to research tools from the following DARPA programs:

  • Wearable prototype technologies from the Targeted Neuroplasticity Training (TNT) program to help Santa more quickly and effectively prepare for his big night 

    TNT seeks to identify safe, noninvasive methods of stimulating the peripheral nervous system to accelerate the acquisition of cognitive skills. Santa is field-testing technology designed to help him learn faster and remember better across a range of skills, from memorizing his Naughty & Nice lists to remembering where he packs each item in his sack. Because when you have to deliver gifts to more than a billion children in 24 hours, every second counts.
  • Computer-based simulations from the Ground Truth program to ensure accuracy of the Naughty & Nice lists 

    Ground Truth aims to assist military planners and decision-makers by improving the accuracy of social science models that predict cause and effect in complex human social behaviors and systems. Kris Kringle is testing the program’s initial research against his own substantial data and experience in knowing who’s been bad or good, and using it to refine his closely held methods for sorting people onto the appropriate list.
  • A revolutionary extremely high frequency (EHF) sensor from the Video Synthetic Aperture Radar (ViSAR) program, to help Santa see through fog, snow, and other obscuring weather

    ViSAR’s goal is to provide high-resolution, full-motion video of moving ground targets through clouds and other opaque weather conditions as effectively as traditional electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) sensors operate in clear skies. The flight-tested prototype is in a moveable gimbal that can be mounted on a variety of aerial platforms—including sleighs. DARPA is committed to helping Santa always see where he’s going, and supports Rudolph’s right to request a well-earned night off.
  • Initial research from the Atomic Magnetometer for Biological Imaging In Earth’s Native Terrain (AMBIIENT) program, to improve Santa’s ability to know if children are sleeping or awake

    AMBIIENT aims to pave the way toward practical handheld sensor systems that measure the infinitesimally small magnetic fields generated by electrophysiological activity in biological organisms. Such systems could conceivably enable fast, noninvasive detection and scanning of neurological and other bodily activities. Santa is consulting with DARPA scientists and engineers to augment ways he can stay out of sight and enjoy his milk and cookies in peace.
  • A prototype mobile application from the Warfighter Analytics using Smartphones for Health (WASH) program, to help identify potential health issues before they interfere with toy delivery

    The Warfighter Analytics using Smartphones for Health (WASH) program seeks to use existing cellphone sensors to collect physiological data for identifying both known indicators of physiological problems (such as disease, illness, and/or injury) and deviations from micro-behaviors that could indicate such problems. Like many of us, Santa brings his cellphone wherever he goes, and the application could alert St. Nick when to rest or take other measures to stay in peak condition while making his global rounds.

Finally, DARPA is continuing its work with the U.S. Air Force’s North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) to track Santa’s flight path on Christmas Eve. One program that could help with this important task in the future is Hallmark, which is working with space operators to design and develop systems to improve the speed and effectiveness of commanders responsible for protecting increasingly critical on-orbit assets—and few such assets are as important at this time of year as Santa and his sleigh full of holiday cheer.

“Santa and his helpers are essential partners in America’s technology innovation ecosystem—not just for their centuries of inventiveness, but also for the happiness they bring to Service members, veterans, and their families each year,” said an Agency spokesperson, speaking from DARPA’s undisclosed northernmost workshop. “DARPA is proud to continue its work with St. Nick on our common mission to make the world a better place by dreaming big and redefining what’s possible.”

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