WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – Google Glass may become the latest battlefield accessory as Air Force researchers explore how the wearable computers can make the military more effective.
Researchers at the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright-Patterson have tested Google Glass, essentially a wearable computer on an eyeglass frame, to see if it can improve performance, said Gregory M. Burnett, chief engineer of a battlefield lab.
An air traffic controller who uses the technology could spot icons and call signs denoting aircraft without looking down at a radar scope, Burnett said. Or Air Force pararescue jumpers could track the medical status of multiple patients and assess who to evacuate first via helicopter, he said.
Google Glass wearers view a small screen on the right side of the frame that displays information. A track pad contains a camera that beams the data above the right eye. Researchers want to make sure they aren’t distracted wearing the high-tech specs before they’re sent to the field.
The technology is meant to work with a smartphone, said Andres Calvo, a Ball Aerospace software development engineer working on the project.
For example, a smartphone can send data to Google Glass, and Google Glass can transmit real-time imagery to display on a smartphone.
“We want [military personnel] to maintain awareness of their environment at all times and that’s one of the potential uses,” he said. “If you place information on a smartphone or other wearable device you have to look down to see it whereas [with Google Glass] the information is right there.”
Google Glass, or similar technology, could allow a user to multitask amid competing demands, researchers said.
“We are trying to find a solution for our end users to increase their situational awareness but still have the ability to do other tasks such as speaking to others on the radio, or texting or whatever they might have to do,” said Second Lt. Krystin Shanklin, a behavioral scientist at Wright-Patterson. “It’s one of the many different technologies that we are doing research on to increase situational awareness.”
One study measured the accuracy of shooters wearing Google Glass frames.
The technology could also lighten the burden on information transmitted to troops in the field, said Second Lt. Anthony Eastin, a behavioral scientist.
“Our guys have a lot of information that’s being told to them,” Eastin said. “They’re talking to the pilots, they’re talking to the commander. … We try to offset that.”
The research lab obtained two Google Glass frames through the company’s Explorer Program but is not working in conjunction with Google on the experiment.