On October 19, Sen. Chris Van Hollen Jr. (D-Md.) addressed a crowd at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) Open Campus Open House at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., detailing how innovations made for the U.S. military can also benefit commercial businesses through proper sharing. Van Hollen spoke as the keynote presenter for the event, with more than 850 participants coming from academic institutions, government agencies, and businesses through extended sites and streaming participation during the two-day event.
“The Army Research Lab and its predecessors have been at the cutting edge of basic and applied research for the Army and for the country for over 100 years,” said Van Hollen. “The research has contributed to giving our Soldiers technological advantages on the battlefield.” He compared the dangers faced by soldiers during the Vietnam War, working as “tunnel rats” to clear threats from underground mazes during that war, to U.S. Marines in Afghanistan who were able to use sensor-equipped robots to diffuse threats in Taliban cave networks. The robots were Packbots built by iRobot in collaboration with ARL. “Undoubtedly, that technology developed by the Army Research Lab saved lives,” Van Hollen noted.
The senator also discussed the Forward Area Language Converter (FALCON) developed by ARL and used to translate and analyze captured documents in other languages. He explained to the conference attendees that the work performed by ARL working with industry is giving soldiers an edge by means of advanced technologies.
“It all starts at the lab with ideas and concepts that are bounced around by experts in the field,” said Van Hollen, “people like all of you in this room, trying to envision what might be possible.” The ARL Open Campus Open House business model was developed four years ago to encourage the involvement of business and academic leaders in efforts that are hopefully mutually beneficial to all involved parties.