Information Warfare: Video Games Kill Easy Profits

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July 22, 2008: The video game controller, developed by American and Japanese engineers to make their video games easier to play, has long been copied for controllers for UAVs and robots used by the infantry. Now a defense manufacturer (Raytheon) has developed one for operating larger UAVs, like the Predator.

For several years now, the controllers used to operate micro-UAVs like Raven, often looked like video game controllers, with a small video screen built in. This approach deliberately copied the "look and feel", not to mention functionality, of video game software and controller layout. This approach worked, and it cut training time a lot. Before this, UAV controllers were using PC software (on a laptop) that depended a lot on a keyboard and mouse. This was not the sort of thing video gamers were used to. Indeed, keyboard and mouse were a pretty lame interface for something as hectic as running a UAV. The keyboard and mouse angle came from the engineers who developed the controller software. Yeah, OK, for developing software, but not for actually operating the UAV under combat conditions. 

The generals and procurement brass could appreciate this approach, and began to keep a close watch on developments in video game interface hardware and software. After all, these older guys were often video game users. It's still common to forget that largest segment of the video games market is adults. And the generals of today, grew up with the first primitive video game consoles and controllers. Some stuck with it, especially as more realistic, and adult, games arrived over the past decade. Naturally, few generals are going to admit that they unwind with a few hours of Halo or Grand Theft Auto (especially the latter). But some do, as can often be seen when they show a remarkably detailed knowledge of how game controllers work. Video game use is more openly indulged in by lower ranking officers, and especially combat troops (who find it a good way to deal with combat stress, and psychologists have created a minor industry studying this phenomenon.)

These tech-adept generals also keep up on other developments, like Google Earth, and the compelling, and easy to comprehend, way the software enables you to find and zoom in on a place. Some of the Google Earth eye candy is also showing up in robot and UAV controllers. Naturally, the defense contractors would rather get millions to reinvent the game controller (and do a bad job of it.) That is not happening, because the generals know their video games, and know what they want. Much cheaper, and effective, to simply borrow from the highly competitive video games industry.

 

 


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