Engineering implementation of basic science in the form of working prototypes. The design of true hybrid systems—that is, systems that combine biological and computational components—represents an enormous challenge. Consider, for example, the difficulties of simply taking the compound eye of an insect and using it stably with a computer and information processor as a sensor. The reverse process—using a computer to generate signals that would be interpreted by the brain as “seeing”—is sufficiently difficult that there is no real single point of entry into the problem. Any attack on this problem will require the combined effort of virtually all the disciplines touching on the field: electrical engineering, biology, materials science, information science, and microfabrication.
ONR is in a unique position to lead research in this area. The diversity of experience and knowledge represented by the ONR scientific officers would allow the establishment of a focused research program in this exciting area and would minimize the potential for wasteful diversions.