They say that robots are the future of combat, and we've seen examples ranging from robot scouts to robot fighter jets. Next in line are the soldiers themselves, as a new haptic belt transmits GPS directions and simple commands to allow soldiers to be remote controlled.
The last thing soldiers want to be doing when they're out on patrol, especially at night, is to be staring down at a handheld GPS trying to figure out where the heck they are, followed shortly by where the heck they're going. The Army Research Office is taking care of the problem with a haptic GPS belt that uses arrays of vibrating motors to gently prod people in the right direction. The belt has eight of these "tactors" spaced out at 45 degree intervals, and once you give it waypoints to follow, it will lead you on by gently pulsing whichever tactor is in the direction you should be going.
The belt offers other functions, too. It can be wirelessly linked to a gesture recognizing glove that can silently and instantly issue commands to multiple belts simultaneously. For example, a "halt" command would pulse the front, back, and side tactors all at the same time, and a "move out" command would pulse the tactors from back to front like a push.
It's also possible to direct the belts from a command center miles away, providing opportunities to steer soldiers around a battlefield. Simply point and click on a computer screen (featuring real-time video from an overhead UAV, of course), and the belts would prod your troops to move wherever you wanted them to move, just like a real-time strategy game.
We should point out that this belt is fundamentally the same idea as the haptic GPS jacket for the blind that we wrote about back in April. And by "fundamentally the same idea" I mean "practically identical" except that one is a jacket and one is a belt. Coincidence? Probably. It's just a very good idea with a bunch of different possible implementations.
Via New Scientist