Bio-Optic Synthetic Systems (BOSS)
In 2002, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) initiated a program aimed at simplifying complex optical sensors used in military operations by imitating biological visual systems. The goal of the Bio-Optical Synthetic Systems project (BOSS) is to understand and synthesize the components of biological vision systems.
Much of the current technology used for intelligence gathering depends on optical sensors. These sensors are complicated, relying on multiple sets of lenses for focusing on their targets. Biological vision systems, such as the eye, are extremely compact, yet allow for a wide field of view, a dynamic range of index of refraction and control over spherical aberration. The crystalline structure of the fish eye lens, for example, accomplishes this flexibility in optical properties via an inhomogeneous protein gradient.
The technical challenges for this project include developing materials with a dynamic index of refraction and a variable field of view lens. In particular, the program specifies that the lens must have a field of view ranging from less than one degree to 120 degrees. The program seeks to develop material to improve the index of refraction, which likely requires the use of an inhomogeneous protein gradient. Materials that self-assemble into such hierarchical structure are of key interest. Both public institutions and private corporations have been funded under this initiative.
█ FURTHER READING:
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Defense Sciences Office "Bio-Optic Synthetic Systems (BOSS)" < http://www.darpa.mil/dso/thrust/biosci/boss.htm. > (March 25, 2003).