BAE Systems

From Augmented Reality to Altered Reality

From Dehumanization of Warfare: Legal Implications of New Weapon Technologies:

However, where soldiers are equipped with cybernetic implants (brain-machine interfaces) which mediate between an information source and the brain, the right to “receive and impart information without interference from a public authority” gains a new dimension. There are many technologies which provide additional information to armed forces personnel, e.g., heads-up displays for fighter pilots and the Q-warrior augmented reality helmets from BAE Systems, which are unlikely to impact this right.

However, there are technologies in development which are intended to filter data in order to prevent information overload. This may be particularly relevant where the implant or prosthetic removes visual information from view, or is designed to provide targeting information to the soldier. According to reports, software has been devised in Germany which allows for the deletion of visual information by smart glass or contact lens.

As one futurist was quoted as saying “So if you decide you don’t like homeless people in your city, and you use this software and implant it in your contact lenses, then you won’t see them at all.”

An entire section of this book is dedicated to the legal and ethical implications of using supersoldiers, augmented by bionic prosthetics, augmented reality devices, and neural interfaces, in modern warfare. Highly recommended.

The book is now featured in the “Key Books” section of H+.

BAE Systems working on eye tracking for military digital helmets

From How wearable technology is transforming fighter pilots’ roles

In the past, eye-tracking technology has had a bad press. “Using eye blink or dwell for cockpit control selection led to the so called ‘Midas touch’ phenomenon, where people could inadvertently switch things on or off just by looking,” says Ms Page. But combine a gaze with a second control and the possibilities are vast. “Consider the mouse, a genius piece of technology. Three buttons but great versatility.” Pilots, she says, could activate drop-down menus with their gaze, and confirm their command with the click of a button at their fingers.

In future, eye-tracking might be used to assess a pilot’s physiological state. “There’s evidence parameters about the eye can tell us about an individual’s cognitive workload,” says Ms Page.

Eye-tracking technology could also monitor how quickly a pilot is learning the ropes, allowing training to be better tailored. “Instead of delivering a blanket 40 hours to everyone, for instance, you could cut training for those whose eye data suggest they are monitoring the correct information and have an acceptable workload level, and allow longer for those who need it.”

Two thoughts:

  • Obviously, human augmentation is initially focusing on vision, but that’s just the beginning. Our brain seems to be capable of processing any input, extract a meaningful pattern out of it, and use to improve our understanding of the world. I expect the auditory system to be the next AR focus. I’d assume augmented earing would be especially useful in ground combat.
  • We are visual creatures so we are naturally inclined to assume that the large portion of our neocortex dedicated to image processing will be able to deal with even more data coming in. What if it’s a wrong assumption?