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The Military Communications Science Technology

US Army To Develop "Thought Helmets" 226

Hugh Pickens writes "Time Magazine reports on a $4 million US Army contract to begin developing 'thought helmets' to harness silent brain waves for secure communication among troops that the Army hopes will 'lead to direct mental control of military systems by thought alone.' The Army's initial goal is to capture brain waves with software that translates the waves into audible radio messages for other troops in the field. 'It'd be radio without a microphone,' says Dr. Elmar Schmeisser, the Army neuroscientist overseeing the program. 'Because soldiers are already trained to talk in clean, clear and formulaic ways, it would be a very small step to have them think that way.' The key challenge will be to develop software able to pinpoint speech-related brain waves and pick them up with a 128-sensor array that ultimately will be buried inside a helmet. Scientists deny charges that they're messing with soldiers' minds. 'A lot of people interpret wires coming out of the head as some sort of mind reading,' says Dr. Mike D'Zmura. 'But there's no way you can get there from here.' One potential civilian spin-off: a Bluetooth Helmet so people nearby can't hear you when you talk on your cell phone."
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US Army To Develop "Thought Helmets"

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  • by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @06:18AM (#25083659)

    Wouldn't this take stuff before people have the ability to filter what they say and speak it out loud?

    Who knows? The military probably doesn't. After all, the military experimented with LSD long before it knew what it was. That's what so great about working with live soldiers. Our soldiers have no rights. They signed them away -- when they signed on the dotted line.

  • by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @10:31AM (#25084759)

    Use a lucid moment to commit suicide and deprive the masters of your services. Better death than slavery.

  • Re:change thinking? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Alarindris ( 1253418 ) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @12:45PM (#25085673)

    talking is one thing, changing the way you think is more like... brainwashing?

    This is already a standard procedure.

  • by Dun Malg ( 230075 ) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @04:09PM (#25087111) Homepage

    Training soldiers to think in short thoughts will invariably cross-over into actual thought patterns that will reduce soldiers' creativity, adjustability and preparation for future events.

    Invariably? You obviously missed the entire premise of this device and went off into some bizarre Firefox fantasy-land. This device is essentially intended to pick up sub-vocalized speech neurologically. It has fuck-all to do with "thinking". In combat we already speak in short, terse language. That hasn't stunted our "creativity" in the slightest.

    You can see the effects, now, of how the Army trains vs. how young soldiers actually think when they come out of Basic and AI training - the world is all black and white.

    You think a nug fresh out of basic/AIT is representative of a fully trained soldier? You've clearly never been in the army. That shit's just to put you in the proper frame of mind to learn how to be an effective soldier. A PV2 out of AIT is just beginning.

    From my family's experience, Reserve units are often more flexible in the field and do better at war games because they can think on their feet.

    In my own personal experience, reserve units are frequently fatter, slower, whinier, and can't remember how to call for artillery support. Who is your "family", anyway? A bunch of reservists? Not much bias there! There's no military advantage to working in an office 50 weeks a year. I know. I was regular from 1987 to 1993, then reserve from 1993 to 2001. When I went regular again and deployed to Afghanistan in '02, I had a long way to go to catch up with the other regulars. I have seen reservist beat regulars in exercises, but only when the "weekenders" were [Rangers|SF|etc] and/or the regulars were a bunch of fuckups. Keeping a uniform in your closet does not make you a better soldier than a guy who wears one every day. "Creativity" simply cannot replace long hours of practice at warfighting.

    Robotizing our forces' thinking, even unintentionally, is a serious step that they ought to fully consider.

    Yeah, they obviously haven't considered the ramifications! We should hire an expert like you to vet all ideas first. Heck, we'll make you the R&D Czar!

    How about some sensor in a glove or on the weapons' grips that would pick up finger pressures and send those out as hand-signals instead? With an on/off momentary switch of some kind, signals would be sent when the soldier wanted them to be, and not when he was merely gripping differently.

    Yeah, because chord-keyboarding is so much easier to learn than sub-vocalized speech, particularly when done on a pistol grip or virtually through a dang glove. Let's hear it for our new R&D Czar!

    Honestly, I don't know what it is about Slashdot readers that they think that by virtue of being mildly intelligent and having (partially) read a vague and misleading blurb, they suddenly think they know more about military R&D than the people who do it every freakin' day.

  • by RyoShin ( 610051 ) <> on Saturday September 20, 2008 @05:30PM (#25087819) Homepage Journal

    Perhaps I'm not fully understanding it, but I believe they don't have the ability to do on-the-spot translation. Instead, soldiers would likely go through a training regiment where they "think" commands, and the helmets are tuned for them personally while trying to get patterns as uniform as possible.

    So when they think "Bravo Team Forward", the helmet recognizes the expected brain waves and translates it. When they think "I could use a mallomar bar and a hooker", the helmet ignores it. You'd get a lot of gibberish in the middle of battle, anyway.

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.