Black Ops and Battlefield Can Take a Hike: Troops Control EOD Robots and UAV Drones with Videogame Controllers

Nov 28, 2012 09:43 AM EST | By Luke Caulfield

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Granted it's not news, but it's still notable. G4 did a special on the Navy's EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) robots once upon a time, and revealed that the technology they use isn't too different from what you use in your own living room. Actually, it's pretty much the same.

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I can't even say whether this is life imitating art, or art imitating life, but military technology is quickly catching up to its private sector counterparts, particularly when it comes to making control of robots much more user friendly.

Personally, when I think of military technology, the control scheme I picture isn't entirely unlike the cockpit of a plane. Switches, triggers, buttons, and to paraphrase the good Dr. Thompson, "esoteric lights and dials and meters that I would never understand." This is much further from the truth than I ever would have thought possible.

Skip to 1:05 for the nerdy "OMG" revelation.

Never saw that in "The Hurt Locker." It's not entirely unlike seeing the Ghosbusters pilot the Statue of Liberty with an NES Advantage.
Amazingly, the Navy's Xbox controller is in a far better shape than my own. But as I'm not bankrolled by the Department of Defense, I obviously don't have access to a steady supply of controllers.

The Navy's EOD team isn't the only one using game technology in the real world. Not to be outdone, UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) drones are similarly controlled by an Xbox 360 controller.

Mark Bigham, an executive for arms manufacturer Raytheon has justified the use of the controllers as more economic, saying, "Gaming companies have spent millions to develop user-friendly graphic interfaces, so why not put them to work on UAVs? The video-game industry always will outspend the military on improving human-computer interaction."

Even Nintendo accessories are being used on the battlefield. According to Paul Marks writing in New Scientist: "The Wiimote is far more intuitive because movements of the hand directly translate into movements of the robot."

I wouldn't go so far as to say that using videogame controllers in theaters of war blurs the line between fantasy and reality, but this could be taking a step in that direction.

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