Sensors ASSIST soldiers

US defence researchers are testing whether a variety of sensors worn by soldiers could provide additional information on a mission to help plan future operations.

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is exploring the use of soldier-worn sensors and recorders to augment a soldier’s recall and reporting capability.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is acting as an independent evaluator for the “Advanced Soldier Sensor Information System and Technology” (ASSIST) project. NIST researchers are designing tests to measure the technical capability of such information gathering devices.

NIST is testing five different sensor systems at the United StatesArmyAberdeenTestCenter in Maryland. The tests involve sensor-clad soldiers on unscripted foot patrol through simulated Iraqi villages populated with “bystanders,” “shopkeepers,” and “insurgents.” The sensors are expected to capture, classify and store such data as the sound of 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.

A capacity to give GPS locations, an ability to translate Arabic signs and text into English, as well as on-command video recording are also being demonstrated. Sensor system software is expected to extract keywords and create an indexed multimedia representation of information collected by different soldiers. For comparison purposes, the soldiers wearing the sensors will make an after-action report based on memory and then supplement that after-action report with information learned from the sensor data.

The Aberdeen tests end the first year of ASSIST’s five-year development effort. The ASSIST plan is designed to use sophisticated data collection systems that can learn from experiences, improving performance with accumulated knowledge.

“Soldiers endure tremendous physical and psychological stresses which can make it difficult to remember details about what they experienced over prolonged missions,” said Craig Schlenoff, NIST’s ASSIST project coordinator. “We hope that ASSIST will keep our soldiers safer and increase the probability of mission success.”

Future combat gear may feature wearable sensors, including cameras and audio pick-ups, to enhance the soldier’s “situational awareness” and after-action reports as a result of the ASSIST project