No comic relief for nanosoldier institute

Aug. 29, 2002 — A comic book creator cast the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the role of the bad guy Monday with an announcement that MIT copied an image from its “Radix” series to win the bid for the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN).

The Canadian publisher Horizon Comics claims MIT used the image of its Valerie Fiores character in a proposal to the U.S. Army, which awarded MIT $50 million in March to create the ISN.

Under the program, the Army will give MIT $10 million annually for five years to explore nanotechnologies that could make soldiers safer and more effective in battle. Among its proposals are lightweight but ballistic-proof armor, uniforms that adapt to climate or the surrounding colorings and imbedded sensor for monitoring a soldier’s vital signs.

MIT posted an image of a futuristic female soldier decked in an exoskeleton-like uniform on its Web site when it was awarded the Army contract. In a March 27 interview with CNET News.com, ISN Director Ned Thomas said the figure was drawn by his daughter, who “was just trying to illustrate what I had been describing to her.” In a news release, Radix creator Ray Lai said use of the image compromised his ability to present his character as a fantasy.

In past interviews with Small Times, A. Michael Andrews, the Army’s deputy assistant secretary for research and technology, said MIT was selected among a stellar group of research universities because of its existing nanotechnology research, top-notch faculty and ties to industry. He made no mention of any illustrations that accompanied any of the proposals.

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