US to Pay You (Up to $130,000) To Weaponize Everyday Tech


If you’ve got an idea for turning a household appliance into a weapon, it’s normally best to keep it to yourself. But now the US military might pay you a six-figure sum for the idea.

Regular readers will no doubt have guessed the bounty comes from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is effectively the military version of Q from James Bond.

The logic behind the “Improv” program is that terrorists and hostile militaries have an obvious incentive to come up with tactics for weaponizing devices, but to inspire the same level of ingenuity from patriotic Americans, only cold hard cash will do.

The idea is that participants may come up with ideas that military staff hadn’t thought of, allowing the military to then come up with creative new ways to counter potential threats.

What contestants actually make is relatively unrestricted. The main rules are that it has to use commercially available technology; that the result be able to “threaten current military operations, equipment, or personnel”; and that contestants don’t break any laws in building a device. Contestants can use pretty much any commercial technology, but DARPA says ideas using tech from non-military settings are of particular interest.

There’ll be a five stage process in assessing the entries. The first two involve participants submitting an abstract, and officials then picking some entrants to submit a more detailed proposal. Those will be whittled down with officials paying up to $40,000 for participants to carry out a feasibility study. From there they’ll thin out the field and then pay up to $70,000 for building a prototype. Finally any prototypes selected for military testing will earn up to a further $20,000.

The process is deliberately being kept to a tight timescale, with 30 days to produce the feasibility study and 75 days to produce the prototype. The idea is that this will force people to work on modifying existing technology rather than building weapons from scratch.

For those interested, you have until March 21 to register your interest.

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