Tuesday, October 14, 2008

U.S. Wants Nanobots and Exoskeletons To Win Futurewar

Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research and Technology Thomas Killian has one word for you: "nanobot." He's thinking about how to sell that idea - along with many other potential methods of futurewar - to futurearmies, and the answer may be at Army Experience Centers, which introduce young people directly to the technology they'll use to protect America or rescue Cortana from the Covenant to recruit a new generation of soldiers. We take you into Killian's mad laboratory, where yesterday's superhero movie becomes the soldier of tomorrow.

Killon's focus on robotics has been a consistent aspect of his tenure as the Army's No. 1 scientist:

"[W]e're now seeing a generation of soldiers who are very comfortable with that technology. They don't have a second thought about the fact that they're using a robot to perform a task. They think that's just the way business is done. And that's how the future will be. They'll think of robots as collaborators or partners or members of their squad, and it won't be unusual for them anymore, like it would be for us, because we come from a prior generation. And that's important—that level of comfort and confidence is critical."

The Army's Acquisitions, Logistics and Technology (ALT) department has grown considerably under Killion's watch. He continues to think outside of the box: at a recent panel, he discussed the research of sensors that monitor brain functions, which could lead to enhanced prosthesis control. The Army demonstrated its experiments with exoskeletons as recently as last year. The development of a material that would help matters is also ongoing:

“We’re trying to develop new fabrics” that could make combat uniforms tough as steel, [director for research and laboratory management for the Army, John A.] Parmentola says. The answer is in nanotechnology. At the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, scientists are trying to grow single carbon nanotubes to about a foot in length. “Once we start getting them in length, the hope is that we’ll be able to spin them into fabric,” he says.

Located in proximity to the Liberty Bell, the features all the doodads that young people like. X-Boxes! Tom Clancy! Flying a chopper with your mind! Today they'll host a Madden tournament during the Eagles game to expose new eyes to their aggressive recruitment methods.

A big part of this tiny piece of the Army's recruiting plan hopes to appeal to a sector that desperately needs new jobs. "All those acquisition career fields require highly trained people; it's not just the PhD scientists — it's the business school graduates that understand basics economics and finance and can help us put together a good contract instrument," Killian told that audience. It's not like they have a whole lot else to do: U.S.A.!

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