Electronic Design

Sensor-Equipped Combat Gear Records Military Activities

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is exploring the use of wearable sensors and recorders to aid in the recall and recording capabilities of soldiers in action (see the figure). The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) tested five such systems at the United States Arms Aberdeen Test Center in Aberdeen, Md., last week.

Soldiers donning the sensors conducted foot patrols through a simulated Iraqi village populated with “bystanders,” “shopkeepers,” and “insurgents.” The sensors are expected to capture, classify, and store such data as the sound of the acceleration and deceleration of vehicles, images of people (including suspicious movements that might not be seen by the soldiers), speech, and specific types of weapon fire. Input streams from sensors detecting location, images, audio, and motion logged and processed data to create digital reports and representations of the soldiers’ activities.

The wearable sensors were developed as part of the agency’s Advanced Soldier Sensor Information System and Technology (ASSIST) project. The main goal of the program is to enhance battlefield awareness via exploitation of information collected by soldier-worn sensors. Organizations participating in the ASSIST trials include IBM Corp. with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Georgia Institute of Technology, Sarnoff Corp., the University of Washington, Carnegie Mellon University, and Vanderbilt University.

The technologically advanced combat gear features a GPS locator, the ability to translate Arabic signs and text into English, on-command video recording, and several cameras. Sensor system software extracts keywords and creates an indexed multimedia presentation of information collected by soldiers, which is later compared to an after-action report.

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