Microsoft gets Windows Phones back into the war game with Digital Sand Table

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Army leaders want to replace the traditional sand table with a touch screen laid over a table, motion-sensing projectors and, eventually, flexible screens that soldiers can store in their cargo pockets.

The Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC), which leads the program, joined forces with Microsoft when it signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the computer software giant.

Leaders of the Command and Control Multitouch Enabled Technology (COMET) program hope to provide the same basic tools of the sand table, but bolstered with 21st-century technology, such as full-motion video feeds, digital maps and real-time intelligence.

Just what form the technology will take is under development by Army and Microsoft engineers. Soldiers could access the sand table from a host of outlets, including the touch screen table, smartphones and tablets the Army has already started deploying, and lightweight flexible screens that Phil West, a senior Microsoft innovations architect, said the commercial industry is developing.

CERDEC engineers and computer scientists have worked primarily with Android tablets and smartphones and the Microsoft Windows Phone 7 because of their open architecture, Michael Sullivan, a CERDEC computer scientist, said. Restrictions remain on the Apple iPhone.

Making sure the framework and user systems remain easy to operate is a top priority, Ron Szymanski, chief architect for science and technology with CERDEC’s Command and Control Directorate said. Scientists such as Sullivan want soldiers to be able to use the software with little to no training.

"That’s really where the golden nugget is," he said. "If I can create an application that is extremely intuitive to use that requires no training on the users’ part, I have now cut down the barrier of entry moving forward. If it requires me to attend a class for a week, I’m not likely to use it."

Read more about the technology at DefenseNews.com here.

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