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US Military Seeking Technology to Better Prepare for War


In military training, the body and the mind are often pushed to the limit. Sometimes, it could be deadly.

“We are killing more Marines and soldiers in training than in combat,” noted Warren Cook of the United States Marine Corps. “Why does this happen?” Very often, he said, the reason is being very tired.

Cook was among military officers and scientists who spoke at the University of Southern California’s Global Body Computing Conference. The meeting took place in Los Angeles.

Cook and others discussed the effect of using technologies such as body sensors to help new soldiers understand the limits of their bodies so they can train safely.

Charlene Mello is a scientist with the U.S. Army’s Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center. She said that the army is testing products, many of which are commercially-made. One example is Fitbit, a wearable device that measures one’s activity levels and physical exercise.

Researchers are developing virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality projects with possible military uses. One mixed reality project involves drone aircraft. The drone is extremely small -- about the size of a human hand. It can follow and capture a person’s movements so they can be studied under a training simulation.

These aircraft are being tested at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies (USC ICT).

Todd Richmond works at the institute. He believes that using videos of a soldier’s movements along with other biodata will change the way people train. He thinks all this information may even change the way people interact with the world.

The institute, also known as USC ICT, is also working on a virtual and augmented reality application, or computer program, called Monticello. Users of the app can interact with a virtual expert.

Soldiers could send pictures of a dangerous area to a virtual expert, who could then guide them to a safer place, noted Adam Reilly, a research programmer.

Another USC ICT project is called Bystander. It is a virtual reality program that helps people deal with situations to prevent sexual abuse and attacks.

“The military is very interested in this area of research because they have programs already to try and stop sexual assaults,” said David Nelson. “It’s a big problem in the military.”

Nelson is a project manager at USC’s Mixed Reality Lab and Creative Director of the Mixed Reality Studio. He said the experience of virtual reality – where a user can see something happening and try to stop it – is better than taking a computer class on sexual abuse.

Officers and scientists at the conference agreed that technology can be used to keep military men and women mentally and physically healthy, which will make them better fighters.

“If you train well, you will behave well in combat,” noted Jeffrey Hold of the U.S. Marine Corps.

I'm Susan Shand.

Elizabeth Lee reported this story for VOANews.com. Susan Shand adapted her report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

sensor - n. a device that detects or senses heat, light, sound, motion and then reacts to it in a particular way

commerciallyadj. involved with or related to the buying and selling of goods and services

virtual reality - n. an artificial world of images and sounds created by a computer that is affected by the actions of a person who is experiencing it

augment - v. to add something to (something) in order to improve or complete it

simulation - n. something that is made to look, feel, or behave like something else especially so that it can be studied or used to train people

biodata - n. biographical information taken from questions about life and work experiences, as well as items involving opinions, values, beliefs, and attitudes

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