Joypad dexterity, that most 21st-century of skills, is poised to assume a key role on the battlegrounds of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Fancy yourself as a tasty video gamer? Then you might soon want to pursue a career in the army.
Joypad dexterity, that most 21st-century of skills, is poised to assume a key role on the battlegrounds of Afghanistan and Iraq, now that defence contractor Raytheon has announced plans to use video game technology in its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones.
Currently, the larger, armed British and American UAV drones buzzing around Afghanistan and Iraq are operated from a base in Arizona, using aircraft-style joysticks and visual data from on-board video cameras.
Raytheon claims to have built a system based on the Xbox 360 processor that generates a video game-like view using accurately mapped terrain, and will replace the joysticks, which become unwieldy over the course of eight-hour shifts, with lower-input controllers. Indeed, many of the smaller, unarmed, hand-launched UAVs already use controllers similar to those of the Xbox 360.
Of the 40 drones lost by the United States military and air force in the past five years, 67% went down due to operator error, so at Â£5-million each, the move could save a lot of money.
And if the technology is adopted, operators could simply be trained to the requisite level of proficiency on Â£200 to Â£300 Xbox 360s or PlayStation 3s, rather than costly simulators.
The key to the adoption of video-game technology in war is the sheer number-crunching power of the latest consoles. Anyone who has played Call of Duty 4, for example, will testify to the startling realism of modern war video games.
And video games have already insinuated themselves into military life, the most famous example being America’s Army, which was commissioned by the US army and launched in 2002 as a recruitment tool — it has since become one of the world’s most popular games online. Future wars, it seems, could be won by the side with the most agile thumbs. —