U.S. Air Force takes Google Glass for a test flight

Glass gets a trial run at working in the battle with soldiers and paramedics

The U.S. Air Force is trying out Google Glass with pilots, battlespace coordinators and even parachuting medics.

The Air Force announced this week that researchers with the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, are testing Google Glass for potential battlefield use.

"Since [para-rescue first responders] have the need to recover personnel, it's beneficial for them to monitor many people at once," said Andres Calvo, a software developer and civilian contractor with the 711th HPW, in a statement. "The app aims to better enable them to assess who needs urgent medical attention. So, if a (pararescueman) has the need to see somebody's vitals, immediately and urgently, Google Glass could fill that need."

The trials are conducted by the Battlefield Air Targeting, Man-Aided Knowledge, or BATMA(N) group, an advanced technology demonstration and research program commissioned by the Air Force Special Operations Command. The group is focused on developing, building and investigating advanced wearable technologies.

Air Force Google Glass
Dr. Gregory Burnett, center, and Andres Calvo, right, analyze the effectiveness of a soldier, 2nd Lt. Krystin Shanklin, using Google Glass. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Dr. Gregory Burnett, the chief engineer of the BATMAN program, noted in a report that the Air Force is interested in using Google's wearable computers, which are still in beta testing, to enable soldiers and pilots to interact more easily and improve mission effectiveness.

"We look at visual, auditory and tactile interfaces that serve to leverage all the human perception channels to provide real-time battlefield data in the most intuitive fashion," Burnett said in the report. "So, if the Airman is visually over-stimulated, we can offload that into auditory information so that he can still process information in a very chaotic scenario."

The Air Force developed a medical app that is being used with Glass for the parachuting medics. With the app, medics could monitor multiple patients at the same time without taking his hands off patients or his weapon.

The military has sent some soldiers into the battlefield with ruggedized laptops, but the soldiers were limited by the machines' size, weight and battery life.

Google's computerized eyeglasses are being used in conjunction with smartphones and tablets also supplied to the soldiers, in case they need to see something on a bigger screen.

The Air Force isn't the only one figuring out how Google Glass could work in a professional setting. Doctors at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston have been running a pilot program in which they're using Glass to help treat patients in the emergency room.

Glass is being tested to helping doctors access information they need to treat patients quickly and without needing to look away from their patients. The devices give the doctors results from blood work and x-rays, along with nurses' notes and the patient's medical and medication history.

This article, U.S. Air Force takes Google Glass for a test flight, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

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