The Future is Here: Google Glass for the Battlefield

q-warrior see through displayWearing a Google Glass headset in public may get you called a “hipster”, “poser”, and (my personal favorite) “glasshole”. But not surprisingly, armies around the world are looking to turn portable displays into a reality. Combined with powered armor, and computer-assisted aiming, display glasses are part of just about every advanced nation’s Future Soldier program.

Q-Warrior is one such example, the latest version of helmet-mounted display technology from BAE Systems’ Q-Sight line. The 3D heads-up display provides full-color, high resolution images and overlays data and a video stream over the soldier’s view of the real world. In short, it is designed to provide soldiers in the field with rapid, real-time “situational awareness”.

q-warrior1The Q-Warrior also includes enhanced night vision, waypoints and routing information, the ability to identify hostile and non-hostile forces, track personnel and assets, and coordinate small unit actions. As Paul Wright, the soldier systems business development lead at BAE Systems’ Electronic Systems, said in a recent statement:

Q-Warrior increases the user’s situational awareness by providing the potential to display ‘eyes-out’ information to the user, including textual information, warnings and threats. The biggest demand, in the short term at least, will be in roles where the early adoption of situational awareness technology offers a defined advantage.

The display is being considered for use as part of the Army Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) system, a powered exoskeleton with liquid armor capable of stopping bullets and the ability to apply wound-sealing foam that is currently under development.

q-warrior2As Lt. Col. Karl Borjes, a U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) science adviser, said in a statement:

[The] requirement is a comprehensive family of systems in a combat armor suit where we bring together an exoskeleton with innovative armor, displays for power monitoring, health monitoring, and integrating a weapon into that — a whole bunch of stuff that RDECOM is playing heavily in.

The device is likely to be used by non-traditional military units with reconnaissance roles, such as Forward Air Controllers/Joint Tactical Aircraft Controllers (JTACS) or with Special Forces during counter terrorist tasks. The next level of adoption could be light role troops such as airborne forces or marines, where technical systems and aggression help to overcome their lighter equipment.

iron_man_HUDMore and more, the life in the military is beginning to imitate art – in this case, Iron Man or Starship Troopers (the novel, not the movie). In addition to powered exoskeletons and heads-up-displays, concepts that are currently in development include battlefield robots, autonomous aircraft and ships, and even direct-energy weapons.

And of course, BAE Systems was sure to make a promotional video, showcasing the concept and technology behind it. And be sure to go by the company’s website for additional footage, photos and descriptions of the Q-Warrior system. Check it out below:


The Future is Here: The “Smart Rifle”

smartrifle4With the help of ballistics computers, integrated devices, and other high-tech advances, the firepower of the individual soldier is growing by leaps and bounds. And now, thanks to weapons like the Tracking Point “smart rifle”, which utilizes computer-assisted aiming, just about anyone will be capable of becoming a sharpshooter.

Tracking Point’s team is located in north Austin, Texas, where they have been working for many years to produce a truly “smart rifle”. After three years, they managed to create a weapon that can hit targets up to 915 meters (1,000 yards) away with near 100 percent accuracy. To put that in perspective, that’s about the length of ten football fields.

smartrifle3Interestingly enough, Tracking Point’s technology was born of frustration. The company’s founder, John McHale, came up with the idea for a smart rifle after returning from a 21-day hunting trip in Tanzania, where he failed to bag the elusive Thompson’s gazelle. Despite repeated attempts that seemed sure to hit the mark, he kept missing, as he lacked the skill to make the necessary corrections for a long-distance shot.

As a Texas native, McHale worked for decades in high-tech. He founded and ran several startups, including NetWorth and NetSpeed, which developed products that brought high-speed Internet to businesses and homes. Using technology to help people deal with the variables of long-range shooting – like shaky hands, wind, and bullet drop – seemed like a good fit with his approach to problem-solving.

smart_rifleBasically, long-range shooting involves a lot of math, incorporating velocity, ballistics, wind speed, and sometimes even Coriolis forces. Basically, as soon as a bullet leaves the gun, it becomes subject to gravity and is fighting to stay on course. The longer the range, the more difficult it is to make an accurate shot. For experienced long-range hunters, these variables are often kept track of using a “dope book” or log.

With a computer-assisted scope, all of this information is gathered in real time by the gun itself and then fed to the shooter via the display in the eyepiece. And while Tracking Point’s rifles are the first type of gun like this on the market, many are sure to follow. Already, a few companies are working on other types of smart firearms, gun-centric apps, and tech-infused scopes.

smartrifle2But of course, this invention goes far beyond the field of sport hunting. The US Army and every other advanced military on the planet is also heavily invested in integrated software and targeting computers to their firearms. And with the development of smart scopes and specialized apps, a new revolution is underway in firearms that has not been seen since the advent of gunpowder.

For those interested in buying one of these rifles, the company has indicated that their is a sixth month back order waiting period. Each one goes for around $25,000 apiece, and the company has already sold out on all the weapons it has slated until the end of the year. Beginning back in may, Tracking Point began shipping their rifles to buyers, and planned to make 400 to 500 by 2014.

Personally, I could do without one. But that’s because In my world, if you’re going to kill an animal, you better make it up close and personal, and be prepared to eat it and not waist a thing! You might say I take the naturalist approach to hunting 😉