DARPA's 'Squad X' initiative pictures drones, robots, and sensors creating an internet of soldiers. And of course it looks a lot like 'Call of Duty'.
You're looking at the official rendering of DARPA's 'Squad X', the agency's latest combat research initiative. So it's not a screenshot from Call of Duty; but isn't there an installment of the interminable war game franchise that's set in the near future, with drones and robot soldiers and high tech-styled health and ammo bars? Because that, apparently, is exactly what the US military imagines soldier-to-soldier warfare will look like in coming years. In the full-screen version, you can see a drone hovering above the fray.
Obviously, there's been a tremendous overlap between military culture and video games, both in form and function, for many, many years. From pilots flying drones with Xbox controllers to military adventures providing the basis for billion dollar-grossing first-person shooters, both enterprises are increasingly feeding off of each other; a tangled, weaponized ouroboros.
Squad X, DARPA explains, "seeks to build an integrated system of systems that would organically extend dismounted infantry squads’ shared awareness and influence." The agency intends to go about "digitizing the squad" by outfitting soldiers with remote sensors, loosing unmanned drones and robots on the battlefield to collect data, and "organically" sharing the information.
DARPA highlights its three priorities of the study it's about to undertake:
- "Integrated access to and control of mobile sensors, including full-motion streaming video
- A three-dimensional common operating picture
- The ability to organically locate and identify friendly forces and threat locations in near real time"
Basically, the agency is looking for the ability to play real-life combat situations more like a video game. To circle around the action to find better ways to keep those life bars from draining.
Right now, Squad X is at the Request for Information stage; the military wants third party input to help it do all of the above. The 'Squad X Infrastructure Study' outlines more of what it's looking for:
Digitizing the Squad involves digitizing the soldier, sensing the environment, and sharing information among squad members. Soldier digitization will occur via soldier‐worn sensors that measure characteristics such as soldier physiological data, operational status and location. Environment digitization will occur through real‐time, organic, cooperative gathering, fusing and processing of multi‐source sensor data by squad members and unmanned systems to build a 3D world model of the squad’s area of operation. This information will be shared throughout the squad via a robust, secure communications network that interfaces with the soldiers via intuitive, multimodal methods.
DARPA wants an internet of soldiers, basically, and of course it looks like Call of Duty.