Wild inventions of the future (and the past) that the Pentagon is behind

DARPA Wants Amputees to Control Prosthetics With Their Mind
DARPA Wants Amputees to Control Prosthetics With Their Mind

Ask a typical American who invented the Internet, and there's a decent chance you'll get a quick sarcastic joke about former Vice President Al Gore, who became infamous for making that claim during the 2000 election.

But far fewer people understand exactly where that claim came from. Gore was boasting about the role he played in supporting the government project that created the Internet. The basis for the Internet did in fact come from a government-backed project spurred years before Gore was in office. The ARPAnet -- the precursor to the Internet -- came from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as DARPA.

The transformative invention is just one of many DARPA projects that have had a huge impact on our world. Check out some of the other game-changing innovations in the timeline:

Compared to the agency's newer projects, GPS and the Internet seem almost old-fashioned.

Just this summer we've seen reports on some truly mind-boggling projects coming from DARPA or from similar or affiliated groups. Here are just a few:

1. A submarine-hunting drone

Russia recently announced the launch of the world's "quietest submarine," part of a new generation of nearly silent diesel submarines. Fortunately for Americans, the U.S. Navy is already testing the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV), which "is designed to hunt the next generation of nearly silent enemy diesel submarines."

2. A personal assistant that can read your mind

Imagine if Apple's Siri worked a lot better, and you didn't even need to tell it what you wanted. The future idea discussed at DARPA's Biology is Technology in June harness all the bits of data your phone collects about you all day to try to anticipate and serve your needs. The next step will involve arming those phones to "read these mind and body signals, connect to an external device that makes sense of the information, and then use that information to anticipate what you need and make recommendations."

3. A phone that can identify who you are just by your touch

This development comes from a project originally backed by DARPA that could stand to end the need for passwords. BehavioSec is looking to use "so-called biometric security" to verify your identity "just from the way you type, move your mouse or touch your phone screen."

4. Robots that can climb, flip, and open doors

Robotics innovation is still far away from the type of human-like look and abilities we saw Arnold Schwarzenegger rock in "The Terminator" -- but they're getting closer every day. The new robots unveiled at DARPA's latest convention this year are more mobile than ever.