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Wearable Sensors Improve Soldier Post-Action Reports

May 15, 2006

Future combat gear may feature wearable sensors, including cameras and audio pickups, to enhance the soldier's situational awareness and after-action reports.

A soldier's after-action mission report can sometimes leave out vital observations and experiences that could be valuable in planning future operations. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is exploring the use of soldier-worn sensors and recorders to augment a soldier's recall and reporting capability. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is acting as an independent evaluator for the Advanced Soldier Sensor Information System and Technology (ASSIST) project. NIST researchers are designing tests to measure the technical capability of such information gathering devices.

NIST tested five different sensor systems* at the U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center in Aberdeen, Md. The tests, which ended May 12, involved sensor-clad soldiers on unscripted foot patrol through simulated Iraqi villages populated with bystanders, shopkeepers, and insurgents. The sensors were expected to capture, classify, and store such data as the sound of acceleration and deceleration of vehicles, images of people (including suspicious movements that might not be seen by the soldiers), speech, and specific types of weapons fire.

A capacity to give GPS locations, translate Arabic signs and text into English, and execute on-command video recording were also demonstrated at Aberdeen. Sensor system software is expected to extract keywords and create an indexed multimedia representation of information collected by different soldiers. For comparison purposes, the soldiers who wore the sensors made an after-action report based on memory and then supplemented the report with information learned from the sensor data.

The Aberdeen tests end the first year of ASSIST's approximately five-year development effort. The ASSIST plan envisions increasingly sophisticated data collection systems that can learn from experiences, improving performance with accumulated knowledge.

"Soldiers endure tremendous physical and psychological stresses, which can make it difficult to remember details about what they experienced over prolonged missions," said Craig Schlenoff, NIST's ASSIST project coordinator. "We hope that ASSIST will keep our soldiers safer and increase the probability of mission success."

*Organizations participating in the May 2006 ASSIST trials included IBM Corp., the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Sarnoff Corp., the University of Washington, Carnegie Mellon University, and Vanderbilt University.

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