DARPA Tackles MR Security with Math-Based Methods

Enhancing Cognitive Security in Mixed Reality Systems

As mixed reality (MR) systems become intricately woven into the fabric of defense operations, safeguarding against cognitive attacks is imperative. DARPA’s Intrinsic Cognitive Security (ICS) program pioneers the development of mathematical strategies to shield MR systems from potential adversarial exploits. This initiative marks a proactive stance in defending MR users within the Department of Defense (DoD) from information flooding, deceptive objects, and virtual data injections.

“We need to develop methods to protect mixed reality systems before systems lacking protections are pervasive,”

Dr. Matthew Wilding, ICS program manager at DARPA.

Understanding the Threat

The entwinement of virtual and physical realities presents novel security challenges. Adversaries can exploit this nexus, aiming to manipulate emotions, induce disorientation, and erode trust in technology.

DARPA’s Proactive Approach

DARPA’s ICS program is at the forefront, exploring the untapped potential of formal methods—mathematically underpinned principles—to construct MR systems resilient to cognitive sabotage.

Formal Methods: A Mathematical Shield

Formal methods stand as the cornerstone of the ICS program, intending to validate mathematical models that can offer concrete guarantees against cognitive attacks in MR environments.

Modeling User Behavior

A nuanced understanding of user interaction with MR systems is key. DARPA’s initiative includes modeling user behavior to establish a foundational knowledge for developing robust protections.

Phased Plan of Action

The ICS program is structured into two phases: the first to develop and prove guarantees, and the second to validate and implement these guarantees in real-world MR systems using commercial technologies.

  • Program: Intrinsic Cognitive Security (ICS)
  • Duration: 36 months
  • Phases:
  • Phase 1: Development of proofs and cognitive models
  • Phase 2: Validation and prototyping using commercial tech
  • Abstract Submission: Due Nov 2, 2023, by noon ET
  • Full Proposal Deadline: Dec 20, 2023, by noon ET
  • Technical Details: Available on SAM.gov
  • Informational Resource: Proposers Day on YouTube


The ICS program by DARPA represents a forward-thinking stride towards embedding mathematical rigor in the development of MR systems. This endeavor not only prepares the DoD for current threats but also establishes a framework for future technology integration.


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