Clockwise from top left, photos courtesy of MC10 via its website, Raytheon via YouTube, FIDO via Crunchwear, and TrackingPoint via YouTube.

Military Wearable Technology Is On The Rise

Clockwise from top left, photos courtesy of MC10 via its website, Raytheon via YouTube, FIDO via Crunchwear, and TrackingPoint via YouTube.

Cheap, wearable tech has the capability of enhancing our senses, cognitive abilities and augmenting our reality. Naturally, military researchers are taking note.

Here are four applications of military wearable technology:

1. Radically improved aiming capabilities

Rifles that can track targets, detect wind and weather, and calculate the optimal flight path for the bullet already exist. In fact, such precision-guided firearms, which uses an LCD screen for aiming instead of a traditional scope, are commercially available.

By hooking this up to an augmented reality platform like Google Glass, however, soldiers can aim the gun without actually looking at their targets, shooting around corners or over hills and barricades.

2. Monitor physical state and injuries

A soldier’s physical condition is obviously critical to his or her performance. That’s why the U.S. military is creating tiny biosensors that will allow soldiers and their superiors to monitor and optimize their condition – as well as sensing injuries.

These thumbnail-size sensors, attached to bandages, monitor a user’s vitals such as heart rate, breathing, and hydration. Lockheed Martin is working on a similar project.

Some sensors can also detect injuries. The wearable developed MC10 is contracted to create a military version of its already-available head injury-sensing skullcap, which provides users with a warning if they’re concussed or their helmet is starting to deteriorate.

Reebok sponsors the athletic version of the MC10, already developed:

3. Better communication between troops and military dogs

Military wearable technology is going to the dogs.

Image courtesy of Georgia Tech via Crunchwear.

The field of military wearable technology isn’t even limited to humans. The FIDO system (short for “facilitating interactions for dogs with occupations”), being developed by Georgia Tech University, allows trained dogs to communicate with their handlers through wearables.

A device would have several different sensors that can be activated by biting, tugging, or simply proximity, each corresponding to a different sound or notification for the handler. The dog would be trained to use the device, which early trials showed was fairly easy.

A bomb-sniffing dog, for instance, could be trained to activate a specific kind of sensor for a specific kind of bomb, instantly alerting its trainer to the threat.

This Q&A with the leader of the developer team has more details.

4. Providing 360-degree battlefield awareness

Simply seeing and being aware of one’s surroundings is also a challenge for soldiers on chaotic battlefields.

Augmented reality can greatly assist in this, combining a virtual display overlay ala Google Glass with information from reconnaissance and other soldiers.

Raytheon’s Aviation Warrior, for instance, give pilots 360-degree awareness by using the airplane’s sensors and overlaying it on a translucent screen attached to the helmet.

Perhaps even more promising is the Defense Advance Research Program’s ULTRA-Vis, which is built for ground troops and can display a range of information in front of the soldier’s eyes.

This includes the location of nearest friendly units, distance to objective, and satellite images of the area.

The device tracks the direction and depth of where you’re looking, essentially augmenting reality with data. If you’re looking at a hill obscuring friendly forces, for instance, it will display an icon over that hill indicating them.

See how the system works here:

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