This sounds like an April Fool's joke but isn't. The military's tech research organization, DARPA, wants to invent a network of computers, sensors and other devices that will vanish on command.
By vanish, they mean press a button and the thing goes "poof," with every component turning itself into dust, preferably biodegradable dust.
Alternatively the network should be able to self destruct after so many hours or at a specific time.
DARPA just awarded a $3.5 million contract to IBM to try and invent it.
DARPA calls the technology "Vanishing Programmable Resources" or "VAPR," which means those in the tech industry can't help calling it "VAPR ware," like ZDNet's Liam Tung, who first spotted this story.
Vaporware is a term techies use to describe a product a tech company has announced but not delivered. It's basically a geek insult.
But in this case, the description is accurate. As DARPA explains:
... sophisticated electronics used by warfighters in everything from radios, remote sensors and even phones can now be made at such a low cost that they are pervasive throughout the battlefield. ... but it is almost impossible to to track and recover every device. ... The Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR) program seeks electronic systems capable of physically disappearing in a controlled, triggerable manner.
DARPA has already invented tiny electronic devices that vanish in water, the idea being that an injured soldier can swallow the device in the battlefield after an injury. It kills dangerous bacteria and fights infection, then melts harmlessly away, absorbed by the body.
DARPA (which stands for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is the agency that invented the Internet and is always running contests for sci-fi-like military projects. For instance, the agency is also looking for the world's best human-like robot offering, and offers a $2 million prize. (Reminds us of "The Terminator" movies.)
That contest led a group of NASA scientists to invent a robotic warrior woman named Valkyrie.
IBM declined to comment on the VAPR contract.
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