Semiautomatic mouse pad: Forrest Liau, one of the glove’s engineers, is demonstrating how a soldier could use its controls while gripping a weapon.
Three accelerometers are built into the back of the glove to sense the orientation and position of the hand, so that conventional hand-arm signals–long an important communication mechanism on the battlefield–can be used to send text commands to other soldiers’ screens. A miniature computer built into the glove connects through a USB cord to the soldier’s wearable computer system.
Thad Starner, an associate professor of computing at Georgia Tech and one of the pioneers of wearable computing systems (he has worn one daily since 1993), says that RallyPoint’s real innovation is sensors that are light enough for soldiers’ use and can be sewn into a glove.
The problem with most new soldier technologies is that people are trying to do too much, says Starner. Land Warrior, a wearable computer system built by the U.S. Army last year, was full of cords, batteries, and hardware that weighed almost 17 pounds. “It was an overkill of features, and the military stripped it down to its most essential parts,” says Starner. “Soldiers are adapting the technology to their needs.”
Starner says that by incorporating new types of sensors, like the track-pad-style mouse, into the glove, RallyPoint is creating something novel. The next step, he says, would be to make the glove wireless and to design it so that it doesn’t impede soldiers’ tactile sensations.
It’s time that someone created something real and usable, and RallyPoint seems to have done just that, says Kortuem.