Contactless technology in the military sector


Contactless technologies are not only used in the gaming industry and scientific projects. Many of them are quite successfully applied in the military sector; in peace times they serve for education and training, and in combat operations for non-contact control of remote equipment; eye tracking or measuring eye movements and the point of gaze, augmented reality systems.

Contactless control interfaces

Control systems are slowly but surely evolving from the keypad and analog manipulators to the touch and completely non-contact controls. The reason is that for any operator sign language control is easier, more convenient and logical. Increasingly often are used humanoid robots and machinery equipped with manipulators, the principle of which copies the movement of human hand. In this case, controlling devices with gestures is not only intuitive and natural, but also as accurate as possible; a detail that often plays an important role.

For fully contactless controls there can be two ways of interaction. In the first case sensors measuring position, speed and direction of movement are situated in a special control interface - gloves. Depending on the purpose and complexity of the work interface capable of transmitting vibration and tactile sensations or temperature can be used. In the second case (If a feedback on the transmitted sensations is not required) in order to track the movements of the operator a system of cameras and depth sensors is used, and a system translating the sign language into control commands for the robot. In this case, usually no additional equipment or special calibration is required.

Eye tracking

Contactless systems are used in the creation of a variety of simulators and trainers (land combat, sea and air vehicles, tactical guidance systems), as participating directly in such trainings could be not only detrimental to the student’s health and life, but often impossible or too expensive. In this case, the contactless control systems allow keeping records on the student activity. In order to create the effect of full immersion, the data about eye movements, head rotation and changing the position of the body will be processed, and allow the virtual reality helmet or projection system to change the visual imagery transmitted to the user.

Eye tracking systems are not only used in simulators, training systems and virtual reality, they are also applied for the direct control of military equipment. Even at the present level of technology the human eye is still one of the fastest and most failsafe tracking devices, the information is processed with great speed and accuracy by the brain. The eye muscles have more specific muscle mass than any other organ; this guarantees the resistance of the eye to long-term stress, quick recovery from fatigue, and most importantly a high pace of eye movements. Currently used automatic guidance systems respond to sound, heat and motion, but eye tracking possibilities can provide better results at less cost.

The most frequently used are the cameras mounted in the pilot's helmet. Systems mounted in the cab using the depth sensors allow determining the position of the pilot’s head, but they are usually less accurate than mobile eye tracking helmets. Besides mobility, it also has other features, the camera tracking the position of the eye is accurately fixed and at pilot’s motion remains at the same place and moves with the head. The pans and tilts of the head are captured by motion sensors.

When a target is found, the pilot can inform the system with his eyes, for example, by quickly blinking twice or using other eye movements pre-determined when setting up the system. Thus on the basis of data on the position of the head and the displacement of the pupil from the central position the board computer determines the direction of the gaze and fixes the target. After that, other tracking algorithms can be employed. Thus, the search and the acquisition of the target can be completely performed by eye movements, while the pilot's hands are occupied by other systems.

The tracking of eye movements now allows determining the target position faster and better, in a fully automatic mode. Thus, a single operator can simultaneously control the movement of a unit, and capture the target with subsequent tracking, or firing; these operations previously required several members of the crew, leading to a decrease in comfort and cabin size increase.

In recent decades, a sustainable development of computer systems is expected, that will not replace the human capabilities in the management of technology, target capturing or other aspects, but only correct and complement it. This will also allow avoiding false positives in fully automated systems, and reducing the total cost at a similar or even greater level of efficiency.

Augmented reality devices

In direct combat actions or to improve the effectiveness of the training the augmented reality glasses or helmets can be used. They display additional predetermined information on objects situated in the field of vision. Such devices are primarily used by medics and technicians. In the first case, they can be used to display information about the patient: age, blood group and Rhesus factor, excerpts from medical records and other important information which cannot be obtained in combat situation for lack of time or opportunity. In the second case, short technical instructions for replacement of parts of complex equipment with indicators and markers could be overlaid on the user’s visual field. This will avoid being distracted by the instructions and help doing the work faster and better, something that is especially useful under time pressure or in confined poorly lighted areas.

Of course, this technology is far from being perfect, but attempts to use it already show the high efficiency and great potential of augmented reality. In the future, when the hardware will become more mobile and the recognition of objects in real time more quick and correct, such systems will be used not only in the military field, but also in teaching, scientific research and in everyday domestic life. In the meantime, the military have got the priority, because for now they are those who request the most the use and improvement of augmented reality.

Today all over the world huge investments are made for the development of augmented reality devices, so in the next few years, new fundamental discoveries are expected to be made in this industry.

In this case, the connection between man and the computer will be strengthened. However, only time will tell which path of development should the researchers, scientists and technicians take.