Robot Controllers Free Operators to Handle Weapons

By Jean, Grace | National Defense, October 2007 | Go to article overview

Robot Controllers Free Operators to Handle Weapons

Jean, Grace, National Defense

OPERATORS OF GROUND ROBOTS typically have relied upon laptop computers or game controller devices to navigate their unmanned vehicles and direct sensor movements. But several companies have developed technologies that untether troops from immobile controllers and give them the ability to hold their weapons and multitask while commanding their robots.

Thlnk-A-Move Ltd., based In Beachwood, Ohio, has created a human-machine interface system that allows operators to control a robot through vocal commands.

When a person speaks or moves the tongue, sound waves are generated through the ear canal.

"Our technology picks up those signals that come through the ear canal through an ear piece, and then we process those signals to eliminate ambient noise and use them for voice control or communications," says Jonathan Brown, vice president of sales and marketing.

An earpiece, similar to an iPod earbud, connects to a Sony Vaio computer the size of a paperback book. Speaking commands such as "forward," "left," and "right," operators can guide a robot's movements while keeping their hands on a weapon and their heads up.

"Not only do they have their hands free to do something else, but they're not looking at a screen as they're trying to control the robot. It's better from a situational awareness standpoint, and also from a multi-tasking standpoint," says Jim Harris, president of the company.

Commands can be spoken at different volumes, which is important, depending on the mission, they say. If troops are operating In a situation where radio silence is required, the technology gives them the ability to give subvocal commands using their tongues.

"Just as they might communicate with other members of their squad using hand signals silently, this enables them to communicate with the UGV silently," says Brown.

The device also works accurately in noisy environments, up to 80 or 90 decibels. It can distinguish between the operator's commands and those given by someone else in close proximity. Developers also have produced an audio feedback capability by adding a speaker. If a robot is equipped with a microphone, an operator can listen to what the robot hears in the same earpiece controller.

Additionally, the mobile PC allows users to view images and telemetry information via the robot's cameras, says Harris.

The technology has been integrated onto an iRobot Packbot. It has been demonstrated to scientists at the Army's Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center, which has approved the company to move forward with a field-deployable version. Harris says a prototype will be ready for deployment next year.

As unmanned ground vehicle technologies improve, the military expects to incorporate more robots into its forces for use by smaller units, such as platoons and squads. Though these robots are seen as force multipliers, their bulky and complex controller interfaces generally demand the full attention of operators - a situation that can be deadly on patrol or during covert operations.

"Marines and soldiers are going to need simple, intuitive ways to control these assets," says Jack Vice, president and chief technology officer for AnthroTronix Inc. in Silver Spring, Md.

The company has developed several human-machine interface technologies that are designed for use by dismounted troops in battlefield conditions.

The visually integrated sensors unit, which gives troops control of multiple unmanned vehicles, comes in a camcorder format that is held up to the eye like binoculars. By pressing buttons on top of the unit, operators can navigate through menus to use various functions, including target designation, mapping and robot operation.

For example, if a team is on patrol outside a base and stumbles upon a suspicious parked car, an operator can pick up the VIS unit and use its laser rangefinder to designate that car as a potential threat. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Robot Controllers Free Operators to Handle Weapons


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.