Taking a cue from a "Star Wars" gadget, the high-tech optics can pick out targets six miles away
If we were to pick the hottest area of technology research so far in 2012, it would have to be brainwaves. We've already seen them being used to move robotic exoskeletons for stroke victims and pilot drone aircraft, and their applications just keep evolving. Case in point: A new battlefield binocular system that will let soldiers determine hostile activity from miles away by using their subconscious thoughts in conjunction with a computer.
Under development by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) since 2007, the Cognitive Technology Threat Warning System (CT2WS) — nicknamed "Luke Skywalker binoculars" after the optics used by the "Star Wars" character — interfaces with a brainwave-reading headset worn by soldiers. A computer scans a 120-degree field of view and sends images of potential threats to the viewfinder for soldiers to review. As they look at the images, the system monitors for the P-300 brainwave, which indicates recognition. Even if the soldiers don't realize it, their brains could be quietly identifying targets, and this system can pick that up.
DARPA says that the CT2WS system has been shown to catch 91% of threats in testing, up substantially from conventional binoculars that only allowed soldiers to spot 47% of threats in the tests. What's more, the agency reports that the system cut false alarms — identification of activity as threats that really weren't — from 810 per hour to five.
Now that the binoculars have proven themselves effective, the technology is being handed over to the Army's Night Vision Lab for further development. At this rate, the digital cameras of 2036 will incorporate the technology for catching that perfect moment without even (consciously) thinking about it.
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