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U.S. Army Soldier & Biological Chemical Command
U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Kansas Street
Natick, MA 01760-5012

Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
(508) 233-5340

Date: January 29, 2001
No: 01-08

Digital MPs

NATICK, Mass. -- He can see around corners, through trees and in the dark. He maintains a file of known offenders on his head and checks faces against it at roadblocks and checkpoints. He communicates by hand signal with people who can't see him.

He's not a "universal soldier" - he's a military police soldier wearing the Digital MP System.

The Digital MP is a durable, lightweight, wearable communications and information management system designed to help carry out reconnaissance, checkpoint security, anti-terrorism operations and other MP missions, said Henry Girolamo, program manager at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (Natick).

Funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the first versions of ViA's next generation wearable PC are currently being used by the U.S. Army Military Police in field tests at Fort Polk, La. and elsewhere.

"The new ViA PC with Transmeta processor has high performance, lower power and no noticeable heat,'' Girolamo said. "ViA's Crusoe-based computer has the potential to be a central component in a soldier's weapon system, providing communication and information management in critical combat situations.''

Fort Polk's 91st Military Police Detachment soldiers became the first MPs to test the system when representatives of Soldier Systems Center, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and contractor teams brought the system to Fort Polk in early November to see how it would work on real soldiers.

The backbone of the Digital MP is a wearable computer developed by ViA Inc., MicroOptical Corp and Honeywell Inc. and tailored to the mission requirements of the MP soldier. The Digital MP's support features include a hands-free, voice-operated interface and an easily recharged or exchanged battery that provides daylong power on a single charge. It features peripherals such as:

- An audiovisual system with built-in miniature camera for face recognition and image display plus a noise-canceling microphone and bone-conduction microphone/earphone for voice recognition, all incorporated in a pair of normal-size eyeglass frames.
- A BDU-pocket-sized "military e-book" readable even in strong sunlight or pale starlight (with night vision goggles) that emit no light to give away a soldier's position.
- An electronic glove that can function like a computer mouse with the e-book and translate hand signals into words on other soldiers' eyeglass-mounted viewers.

The Digital MP system can connect a military police team wirelessly and in ways never before possible.

The eyeglass-mounted camera provides streaming video. "It can transmit to me what another MP is looking at even though I can't see him," said Sgt. Michael Sauer, Special Reaction Team noncommissioned officer-in-charge, 91st MP Det.

An MP making a traffic stop or manning a checkpoint can take live videos that are checked against digital mug shots stored in the National Crime Interdiction Center database, so he's quickly alerted if the person stopped has a criminal record. On deployment, the system can warn him that he's dealing with a suspected terrorist or war criminal. An MP on patrol can use the e-book to quickly help others locate what he sees.

"Say he's on recon, looking at the terrain," said Sauer. "He sees enemy tanks." Using traditional methods, the soldier plots coordinates on a paper map, calls the tactical operations center on the radio and another soldier plots the coordinates on another map. With Digital MP, "He puts the icon on the map and sends it to the operations center," Sauer said.

With the electronic glove, MPs separated by thick woods, buildings or darkness can still communicate silently with the familiar hand signals for "Suspect armed!" and other vital information.

The adapted Nomex flight glove, with bend sensors in each finger and in the wrist, pressure sensors in the index and middle fingertips and 2-degree tilt sensors, renders preprogrammed gestures as words in fellow MPs' eyeglass display monitors.

The glove works when the signaler doesn't have line of sight communication with the others and doesn't want to give away his position by speaking, said Sauer.

The glove also functions like a mouse with the e-book, guiding the cursor with the tilt sensor and using the pressure sensors as right and left clicks. When silence is necessary, as on patrol, the glove can override the voice-operated system.

The Digital MP can be programmed to continuously translate speech from English to another language and vice versa with only a five-second lag.

Presently it can handle Spanish, Korean, Arabic, German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Thai and Turkish, and plans are to add "militarese" - translating the soldier's "clicks" into the civilian's "kilometers," for instance.

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