DARPA HO HO HOpes to Give Santa’s Workshop a High-Tech Makeover
DARPA today announced it is extending its High-speed Optimized Handling of Holiday Operations (HO HO HO) initiative, which the Agency launched last year to help Santa Claus and his elves more quickly and efficiently complete their holiday duties. Recognizing that high morale is an important adjunct to high technology for meeting the challenges of a complex world, the initiative aims to ensure that Service members, veterans and others can all share the magic of the holiday season.
Through HO HO HO, Santa and his North Pole crew have been granted access to research from several DARPA programs and research efforts:
- Software tools from the Cyber Grand Challenge (CGC) and Brandeis to protect Santa’s naughty and nice lists, and kids’ wish lists, from malicious hacking and misuse
CGC plans to culminate in August 2016 with a first-of-its-kind tournament of automated security systems designed to defend against cyberattacks as fast as they are launched, while DARPA’s Brandeis program is developing tools and techniques to give individuals and organizations more control over their private data. Together, these technologies should help Santa’s IT staff prevent the Grinch and other unsavory characters from stealing or altering sensitive troves of gift-related information, thus preventing roast beasts and other holiday necessities from getting data-dumped off a virtual Mount Crumpit.
- Robots equipped with Mathematics of Sensing, Exploitation and Execution (MSEE) software to assist overworked elves
DARPA’s MSEE program is developing quantitative mathematical models to help supervised autonomous systems better understand their environment and plan and execute complex tasks, essentially by watching others perform those tasks. Early work has already led to robots able to perform culinary tasks after watching a cooking show. Leveraging that technology in Santa’s workshop, MSEE-enabled robots will make and serve egg nog and other holiday refreshments for Santa and his workers when they need a break and will help elves build more toys and wrap more presents during this most hectic time of year.
- Data and equipment from the Assured Arctic Awareness (AAA) program so Santa can know conditions close to home and plan accordingly for his big once-a-year flight
DARPA’s AAA program aims to develop new rugged, economical and environmentally responsible technologies for use in advanced distributed sensor systems and other capabilities to monitor the Arctic above and below the ice, providing year-round situational awareness and maritime security of this remote region. AAA-derived capabilities have been offered to Santa both to alert him about any obstacles to a timely takeoff on Christmas Eve and to help him keep his North Pole workshop under wraps in the years ahead—a concern of global importance as international activity in the Arctic region increases.
- Technology from DARPA’s Vertical Takeoff and Landing Experimental Plane (VTOL X-Plane) program, as well as prototype robotic landing gear, to improve the speed and maneuverability of Santa’s sleigh and its ability to land safely on slanted rooftops
DARPA’s VTOL X-Plane program envisions revolutionary hybrid aircraft with the speed of fixed-wing platforms and the maneuverability of helicopters, while the robotic landing gear system (developed with funding from DARPA’s Mission Adaptive Rotor program) aims to expand the effectiveness of helicopters across military and national security missions by enabling takeoff and landing from angled, irregular and moving surfaces. Reports from Santa indicate that these capabilities would significantly augment his already proven piloting skills and help him and his reindeer safely deliver their precious cargo.
- Initial research from the Revolutionary Enhancement of Visibility by Exploiting Active Light-fields (REVEAL) program to help Santa scout each home more efficiently before squeezing himself down the chimney
DARPA’s REVEAL program is working to develop new imaging hardware and software technologies able to tap currently unused information in photon pathways, with the goal of reconstructing a full 3-D scene from a single, non-line-of-sight viewpoint. So equipped, Santa could look down the chimney and know at a glance whether children are asleep in their beds, where best to place presents and where to find the milk and cookies left for him.
“DARPA is proud to continue our partnership with Santa, who provides invaluable service every year to warfighters, veterans and their families,” said an Agency spokesperson, speaking from DARPA’s undisclosed northernmost workshop. “DARPA salutes St. Nick as an admirable early adopter of advanced technology, and wishes the best for everyone in the technology innovation ecosystem who together share the goal of making the impossible possible.”