Wearable Technology Interfaces for Warfighters

The Israeli TrekAce Company offers wearable systems designed to ease the warfighter's cognitive overload on the battlefield

"Have you ever managed to read notices, E-mail messages, or instructions on the move (while walking, running or riding)? Of course not. Apparently, this is an inherent human limitation; it is a cognitive overload," says Ronen Gabbay, TrekAce's founder and CEO. Visual commands are not applicable on the move, as the human brain cannot effectively process the management of the body's motion through space and at the same time receive, understand and implement visual commands. For example, our need to stop, disconnect (visually and mentally) from our surroundings and only then look at the map while navigating.

"Another example, have you ever managed to understand and implement voice commands during a telephone conversation? This, too, is an inherent limitation – a cognitive overlap. Sound instructions are inapplicable if they are generated at the same time as other relevant sounds – either from the environment or other applications. All of the commands/instructions arrive at the same section of the brain, thereby creating a paralyzing overlap. For example, our tendency to miss a turn while using Waze if we are engaged in an animated conversation on the phone."

These human limitations are further enhanced under subjective pressure (exhaustion, fear, a surge of adrenaline, etc.) and/or under objective pressure (terrain conditions, weather conditions, etc.). Such pressures are typical of environments where military and HLS units operate, and consequently often lead to operational failures and even to tragic results. Such failures can be the result of spatial disorientation, failure to reach a specific destination (on time or ever), digression from the prescribed sector boundaries, running engagement with an enemy ambush, formation disruptions, friendly fire and so forth.

Moreover, overloading the warfighter with more and more reporting systems (communication, C2, sensors and so forth) makes it difficult for the warfighter to manage, prioritize and implement the inflow of information while he is required to fulfill his primary mission at the same time. Instead of helping the warfighter, these traditional aural/visual interfaces become a burden for him to the extent that they are rejected outright or even shut off during operational activity.

In order to provide a practical solution to the problems above, TrekAce uses a unique sensory input channel. This channel can either replace or be added to the other failed channels, either by reducing the sensory input load (thereby preventing an overload) or by decentralizing it (thereby preventing an overlap). The channel in question is the touch or tactile channel. TrekAce provides military and security forces with wearable systems and software applications that convert traditional interfaces and aural/visual communication into a tactile language: an ergonomic, intuitive language that promptly converts any input into "words" for the user.

TrekAce offers developers and companies built-in API (Application Programming Interface) and a cooperative alliance that will enable them to convert their traditional visual and/or aural interface into TrekAce's tactile language. Some examples of applications that are relevant to this cooperation are C2 systems for warfighters, navigation/orienteering systems, biometric systems, communication, message and alert systems, operational driving support systems, etc.

The 'TrekAce Advanced' force management and navigation system unifies the elements by TrekAce into a holistic system (wearable elements plus software) and guides the warfighter to his destination intuitively while preventing him from becoming disoriented or lost. The force management and navigation software is not dependent on GPS and enables precise navigation without any other external aids.

Following a comprehensive series of trials under diversified realistic conditions worldwide, the company has begun delivering the products of the TrekAce series, which include the wearable products 'Core' and 'Team' and the GPS-independent 'TrekAce Advanced' force management and navigation system. At the same time, various market leaders are currently offering solutions that incorporate TreakAce's wearable elements, while using API, to their clients.

 

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