DARPA Eyes Tiny Insects as Models for Advanced SWaP-Constrained Artificial Intelligence (AI) Computing

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January 10, 2019 | Originally published by Date Line: January 10 on

ARLINGTON, Va. – U.S. military researchers are drawing on the evolution very small flying insects to improve artificial intelligence (AI) computing with reduced training times, improved computational efficiency, and low power consumption.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., issued a solicitation Friday (DARPA-PA-18-02-03) for the for the Microscale Biomimetic Robust Artificial Intelligence Networks (Micro-BRAIN) project.

DARPA scientists seek to develop new computational frameworks and strategies by drawing from the impressive computational capabilities of very small flying insects, which nature has forced to reduce their scale, size, and energy consumption without any loss of performance.

The past decade has seen explosive growth in development of AI systems, DARPA researchers explain. Nevertheless, the amount of computation necessary to train the largest AI systems has been increasing ten-fold each year as AI has taken on progressively more complex problems.

Experts predict, moreover, that tradeoffs between computational capability, resources, and size, weight, and power consumption (SWaP) is becoming increasingly critical.

Although computer research in this area is going in the right direction, much more needs to be done, DARPA researchers say. Today”s neuromorphic and neural architectures rely on digital computing that attempt to mimic the way nature computes, yet not the way nature functions. Biological systems like tiny insects may hold some keys to improvement.

For the Micro-BRAIN project, DARPA is asking for new ways of understanding integrated sensory and nervous systems in miniature insects and developing prototype computational models that could map onto computer hardware to emulate their functions.

Nature has forced on these small insects drastic miniaturization and energy efficiency, some having only a few hundred neurons in a compact form factor, while maintaining basic functionality, researchers explain.

FBO Solicitation:
Microscale Bio-mimetic Robust Artificial Intelligence Networks (μBRAIN)
Solicitation Number: DARPA-PA-18-02-03
Proposals Due: no later than 4 February 2019

Primary Point-of-Contact:
Michael Fiddy
DARPA Defense Sciences Office Program Manager