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The U.S. Air Force is testing Google Glass for battlefield use

"OK Glass, shoot that guy."


Tim Sampson

Internet Culture

Posted on Apr 10, 2014   Updated on May 31, 2021, 12:19 pm CDT

Apparently the United States Air Force is looking to recruit a few “Glassholes.” An elite Air Force technology research team has been experimenting with Google Glass’s potential battlefield applications, and so far things are looking promising.

The air force’s “BATMAN” research team at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio has been beta-testing the wearable technology as the air force—and other military branches—seek a way to replace cumbersome battlefield laptops, according to VentureBeat.

As a potential combat accessory, Google Glass has a lot to offer military personnel, according to 2nd Lt. Anthony Eastin, a behavioral scientist on the BATMAN team. (That acronym, by the way, stands for Battlefield Air Targeting Man-Aided (K)nowledge.)

The BATMAN group is part of the distinguished 711th Human Performance Wing. The team is made up of both military and civilian scientists specializing in technology and human behavior.

According to Eastin, the most beneficial attributes of Glass “are its low power, its low footprint, it sits totally above the eyes and doesn’t block images or hinder vision.”

It’s “not a silver bullet,” according to Anres Calvo, another researcher on the team, but Glass could allow military personnel to “access information very quickly.” That would be an important attribute in a military increasingly reliant upon technology.

As part of its work, the BATMAN team has been developing special software for the device to build upon the Android operating system and customize if for military operations.

According to VentureBeat, “Possible Air Force scenarios for the technology use include forward air controllers working on the ground helping vector fighter and bomber aircraft to their targets, search and rescue missions, and combat controllers communicating with aircraft flying overhead and ground troops in combat, supply, and rescue operations.”

The Air Force evidently obtained two Glass units the same way as everyone else, by applying to Google’s Glass Explorer program. The ongoing program has allowed users who pay $1,500 the chance to try Glass before it goes on sale to the general public.

Team BATMAN’s Glass tests come at a time when military and law enforcement organizations across the country are attempting to uncouple themselves from old, clunkier technology and adapt to newer, more nimble designs.

The Marines, for instance, recently unveiled a new helicopter drone that soldiers can fly using a tablet device. And in February, the New York City Police Department reported that it had obtained two pairs of Google Glass for testing as well, with no actual field deployment as of yet.

Illustration by Jason Reed

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*First Published: Apr 10, 2014, 8:01 am CDT