Emerging Tech

Attention game developers: The Army wants your gesture-tracking technology

The Xbox Kinect tracks body moment.

The Xbox Kinect tracks body moment. // Casey Rodgers/AP

The Pentagon wants Kinect-type video game technology that tracks movements and gestures to be installed in helicopter cockpits, solicitation documents show. The service’s goal is to build low-cost intelligent systems where pilots could direct helicopters with head movements and crew members could track objects the pilot is looking at.

Deploying movement-sensing technology in military aircraft is not a particularly novel idea. For instance, defense contractor Boeing has made helmet-mounted trackers that allow pilots to cue onboard weapons by pointing their heads at enemy targets, according to company news release.

But the Pentagon wants to pull down the prices of the technology available. “New technology from the gaming world has the potential to substantially reduce the cost of adding head tracking to conventional helicopters, as well as the ability to do body tracking and gesture recognition to support future intelligent cockpits,” reads an army solicitation document. It highlights the potential of Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox, a hugely-popular motion-sensing device among gamers.

The army is seeking partners to help “determine the feasibility of using gaming or other low cost technologies like the Kinect in a modern cockpit,” develop gesture recognition, and work with manufacturers to integrate the system into an army cockpit. The technology, if successful, also could detect if a pilot is getting tired. Additionally, it could be deployed in ground vehicles and any work station where an operator has to interact with controls and displays, the document notes.

The solicitation is currently in pre-release and will officially launch May 24. Proposals are due by 6 a.m. E.S.T. on June 27. This contract will be administered by the Army as part of the Small Business Innovation Research program, which is aimed at providing early-stage financing to companies with fewer than 500 employees.

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