USAF evaluates Google Glass for potential battlefield use


Google Glass

The US Air Force (USAF) is testing Google Glass and its head-mounted optical see-through display technology for possible use on the battlefield.

Jointly conducted by researchers of the 711th Human Performance Wing (711th HPW) and Battlefield Air Targeting, Man-Aided Knowledge (BATMA(N)) group as part of Google's Explorer programme, the trials are still in beta-testing stage and aims to make missions lighter and faster for airmen.

Based on Google's own Android operating system, Google Glass is a combination between a hardware and software product, and can use a great majority of modern smartphone capabilities, while enabling largely hands-free operation.

711th HPW civilian contractor and software developer Andres Calvo said the most distinguishing feature of Google Glass is that its screen sits above the user's right eye, which means that the screen is off by default.

"Whenever you need to access the information, you either look up, or you touch on the trackpad and only then will the screen turn on," Calvo said.

"Whenever you need to access the information, you either look up, or you touch on the trackpad and only then will the screen turn on."

One of the possible uses of the technology being investigated in preliminary studies is a medical application that would enable first responders in the pararescue community to monitor vitals of multiple casualties, without taking their hands off patients or weapons.

Calvo said the glass has a display that information and could fill the pararescueman's requirement to see somebody's vitals, immediately and urgently.

"Google Glass is not going to be a standalone interface," Calvo added.

"It's also coupled with an (android) device, so if a (pararescueman) is in need of viewing information that is more in-depth, or too dense to be viewed through Google Glass, then the smartphone would be a good place to do that."

As well as Google Glass, the BATMA(N)-711th HPW team is also trialling BAE Systems' Q-Warrior display technology for air force viability.

Developed by Google X, Google Glass is a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display (OHMD), and displays information in a smartphone-like hands-free format.


Image: A Google Glass test model rests on a dummy airman at the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, US. Photo: courtesy of US Air Force photo/Richard Eldridge.

Defence Technology