DARPA's looking for a way to give soldiers on the ground more direct access to air support, and the solution that they've come up with involves a nifty-looking set of holographic sunglasses.
Generally, when soldiers request air support, that request has to wind its way through patchy radio links, complicated computer systems, intelligence analysts, commanders, lawyers, air traffic controllers, and ultimately aircraft pilots before anything actually happens. DARPA wants to bypass all that with a set of augmented reality holographic goggles that would give troops a direct link to their support aircraft.
Funding has gone to consumer video goggle manufacturer Vuzix, along with traditional defense-tech heavyweights Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, to develop a system that would visually allow troops to "request and control near-instantaneous airborne fire support." The concept calls for a set of hologoggles slaved to a head tracking sensor along with a data link that can provide real-time information on what resources are available:
"The head tracker knows where the user is looking, so the information the user is seeing changes as he moves or turns his head. Theoretically you could look up in the sky and a little green triangle would appear telling you, you have an F-16 30 miles out at 21,000 feet. It could also tell you what type of ordnance the plane was carrying, so you could make a quick decision if that plane would be appropriate for the mission."
The goggles would also be able to provide all kinds of additional information from the aircraft, which DARPA hopes would help to minimize things like friendly-fire accidents. If Vuzix can get these things to work, they'd only be about 3mm thick, and entirely transparent when turned off, which sounds pretty slick to me. Tech like this may be great for the military, but it would be great for consumers as well, so let's hope that's a little extra incentive for Vuzix to make it happen and bring some hologoggles to market for the rest of us at the same time.
Via Danger Room