Tank commanders on military night missions want their ground-based target-recognition systems to detect any approaching enemy tanks as soon as possible. "A detection system with an 800 MHz Pentium chip displays the needed image in approximately 65 seconds," says Bruce Draper, a Colorado State University computer science researcher. He and colleagues Wim Bohm and Ross Beveridge are working with the U.S. Army to develop a powerful new Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) that is said to be 600 times faster than the 800 MHz Pentium chip. Instead of requiring 65 seconds to identify enemy tanks, Draper says his chip would speed the process to less than a second. "We buy commercially available hardware and build a language compiler for it," says Bohn. "We design the software environment, but at the circuit level." The FPGA increases a computer's speed by reconfiguring the hardware circuits to directly match the needs of given military software programs. The technique is de-scribed as creating programmable hardware by allowing users to repeatedly download new programs directly onto the computer's circuits. The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency funds development of this project. For more information, go to www.cs.colostate.edu.
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