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 😉


People Shooting at You: There’s an App For That!


If the collapse of gun legislation in the US concerns you, fear not! Computer engineers at Vanderbilt University have developed a lightweight module that works in combination with a smartphone. This device, which about the size of a pack of cards, can pick up the “sonic signature” of a gun going off, and then sense shockwaves from the bullet. It sends the combined information to an Android phone, where it is plotted on a map.

So if you’re on the street and find yourself caught in the middle of a gang war, or are just randomly targeted by a sniper or gunman on a psychotic break, you will be able to pinpoint where the bullets are coming from. This should come in handy if you plan on returning fire. But if you’re planning on sitting tight and letting the police handle it, that’s good too. Chances are, they’ll have their own units on them, as will soldiers.


The device is essentially a commercialized version of military technology under development by DARPA. And aside from ordinary citizens, it’s likely to be picked up for use by bodyguards and the police. Earlier versions were tested with the US armed forces, but the team has since developed two versions of the device, one for commercial use that requires four units to located where a shooter is coming, and the militarized version that requires only two.

These and other subsequent versions are likely to be incorporated into all Future Force Warrior designs, giving soldiers the ability to detect where snipers and enemy combatants are shooting at them from. These are likely to come handy in densely populated areas, or in areas where insurgents and guerrillas constitute the majority of enemy combatants – as has been the case in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Granted, a far easier solution would solution would be to get the guns off the streets. But seeing as how that’s not likely to happen anytime soon, due in large part to the powerful pro-gun lobby in Washington, people may want to invest in some of these boxes. After all, if there’s a lesson in the most recent deadlock, it is that citizens have the right to protect themselves. This way, they can do so without having to buy a hand gun, assault weapon, or body armor!


The Future is Here: The tDCS Headband!

tcdsOh what a time to be alive, when more and more science fiction concepts that once seemed hokey are now becoming a reality! Take the transcranial direct current stimulation for example, otherwise known as the tDCS. It’s essentially a high-tech headband, one which is used to trigger the release of the powerful opioids – the human body’s most powerful, euphoria-inducing painkillers that are very similar to opiates such as morphine.

A team of international researchers headed up by the University of Michigan tested this noninvasive device and realized it could be both safe and effective. By applying a very small current to your scalp (2 milliamps), the headband alters the behavior of neurons in the brain, triggering the release of opioids that relieve pain, relax the body and create a general sense of well-being. This is big news for the medical industry and patients, since it means that artificial painkillers may not be necessary for much longer.

sniperTo be fair, the tDCS is not entirely new. Back in March of 2012, DARPA announced that it was using this device to assist in the training of military sniper. Essentially, the device was created to alter brain chemistry since the application of current to the brain was shown to make neurons fire faster and improve their neurolasticity. In short, the device could improve reaction time and help users to learn things faster.

However, Alexandre DaSilva and a team of researchers out of the University of Michigan found that the tDCS, when the electrodes are placed above the motor cortex, releases endogenous μ-opioid. In their study, the patient’s threshold for pain improved by 36% and the researchers seem confident that repeated uses of tDCS would also reduce clinical, chronic pain. By boosting the release of natural painkillers, less pharmaceutical opiates are required for managing pain, thus reducing the side effects and the risk of addiction.

neurozeneFurther analysis and long-term trials are needed to confirm these initial results, and I’m thinking a study on the possible effects of tDCS abuse might be needed as well. Sure, patients can avoid getting hooked on Oxycontin, morphine, and codeine with this device, but couldn’t they also get hooked on their headband? Yes, I can see it now. “I don’t need to wear my TransCranBand! I can quite whenever I want!”