Dec. 19, 2008 — For kids, a new way to control virtual characters is all fun and games. For soldiers, more intuitive controls for robots could mean the difference between life and death.
Using the controller from the popular Nintendo Wii gaming system (the “Wiimote”) scientists from the Idaho National Laboratory, working with engineers from the U.S. Army, Foster-Miller, and iRobot, are developing novel ways to control military robots.
“If a soldier wants to find a bomb [with a robot], 95 percent of their attention has to be focused on the screen,” said Doug Few, an engineer at the Idaho National Laboratory working on the project. “Using the Wii remote reduces the work load on the operator and also extends the numbers of domains that the robot can be used in.”
The current laptop interface that controls the military robots can have up to 50 hard buttons and requires a soldier to place all attention to the monitor, a potentially deadly distraction in a war zone.