DARPA Publishes Huge Online Catalog of Open Source Code

DARPA's Atlas Robot
Boston Dynamics' humanoid robot, Atlas, can now run around outdoors. (Image credit: DARPA)

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) — the branch of the U.S. Department of Defense responsible for developing new, cutting-edge technologies for the military — is shedding some of its secrecy by making all of its open-source code freely and easily accessible online.

This week, the agency launched the DARPA Open Catalog, an online database of open-source software, publications, and other data, from public DARPA-funded projects. The catalog will function as a way for DARPA to organize and share results from the agency's research efforts, according to DARPA officials.

The database will likely be of particular interest to the research and development community, and DARPA is hoping the move will spur innovation and lead to new collaborations in the future. 

"Making our open source catalog available increases the number of experts who can help quickly develop relevant software for the government," Chris White, DARPA program manager, said in a statement. "Our hope is that the computer science community will test and evaluate elements of our software and afterward adopt them as either standalone offerings or as components of their products."

The catalog's initial offerings include software toolkits and peer-reviewed publications from the agency's XDATA program, which was designed to address the challenge warfighters face in processing and analyzing huge amounts of data. The program required taking new approaches to data science, such as examining software tools to better visualize the data, and figuring out ways to enable rapid customization to fit the needs of different missions.

Future updates to the catalog will include software, publications and experimental results from programs that examined language translation technologies and visual media processing, according to DARPA officials.

DARPA has a reputation for working on some of the most ambitious technological research projects, including programs to develop hypersonic vehicles and sophisticated humanoid robots. The agency's trailblazing research — while seemingly science fiction in scope — oftentimes find broad consumer applications. Some of the most well-known technologies that began as DARPA projects include GPS, the Internet, and self-driving cars. 

In December, the agency hosted the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials, a competition designed to test robots' abilities to perform disaster-relief functions, and to advance the overall field of robot technology.

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Denise Chow
Live Science Contributor

Denise Chow was the assistant managing editor at Live Science before moving to NBC News as a science reporter, where she focuses on general science and climate change. Before joining the Live Science team in 2013, she spent two years as a staff writer for Space.com, writing about rocket launches and covering NASA's final three space shuttle missions. A Canadian transplant, Denise has a bachelor's degree from the University of Toronto, and a master's degree in journalism from New York University.