Extra (and Unbiased) Eyes and EarsMay 22, 2006 By: Melanie Martella, Sensors
According to a recent press release, NIST will be evaluating soldier-worn sensor and recording systems intended to augment what the soldiers themselves can recall.
Basically, the military wants to get better, more complete information about missions. As the project coordinator points out, "Soldiers endure tremendous physical and psychological stresses which can make it difficult to remember details about what they experienced over prolonged missions." The Advanced Soldier Sensor Information System and Technology (ASSIST) project intends to rectify these information gaps by using systems that accept (and record) sensor inputs for location, audio, motion, and images.
This sounds like an extremely ambitious project but also a worthy one. Wouldn't it be nice to have unbiased data to help clarify what happened? One of the capabilities that will be demonstrated is translation of Arabic signs and text into English, which (if it works as advertised) would be immensely useful. If you want the nitty-gritty, look here at DARPA's information on the project.
Yet More Stuff to Carry
While I applaud the project I feel sorry for the troops who already carry a lot of gear around with them (witness this article from Military.com). Sure, things are getting smaller all the time, but as any hiker can tell you, ounces can make a difference.
An Interesting Tangent
I just finished reading this book. It is flat out, hands-down fascinating. It hadn't really occurred to me how you test things like body armor or generate the data that let you build a crash test dummy. The answer is that you use instrumented cadavers because a. you can't test using live people (although some early crash testing was performed by the researchers themselves who were dedicated, insane, or both) but b. you need to know how the human body will react/how much force it can withstand before it breaks. Once you've established your baselines you can use instrumented dummies or other techniques to test the equipment. Lest you fear ghoulishness, this book is respectful, informative, and frequently very funny.
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