Radar. The Internet. The Jeep. The Global Positioning System. Technologies developed for the military often cross over to the civilian world-subtly or still in character. A Hummer, even painted lemon yellow and parked downtown, still looks battle-ready. And technology crosses back too. The Marines´ Dragon Runner surveillance vehicle was inspired by the radio-controlled car industry; the controller was copped from a PlayStation 2.
The question naturally occurs:
But the thinking is shifting, and procurement officers now get pats on the back when they fulfill a military need with a consumer product. The new approach has forged strange alliances, such as the Army´s partnership with the video game industry to create a soldier trainer called
The evaluations on these pages are subjective, debatable and, in many ways, totally unfair. We stand by them completely. In our judging, we considered technological sophistication-a missile-controlling helmet beats one with only a data screen-and effectiveness: How well does the device do what it is intended to do?
It would be shortsighted, of course, to discuss what´s happening with military tech without discussing what´s happening with the military. We are at war, and every new technology is being developed with an eye toward what is going right-and what is going terribly wrong-in Iraq and Afghanistan. New conflicts-smaller, urban, unconventional-will require new tools and tactics. â€Soldier-centric warfareâ€ and â€situational awarenessâ€ are the buzz phrases, because tanks and bombs have limits when you´re fighting among civilians. This combat paradigm places an increased emphasis on the very sort of high-tech tools civilians use. You depend on your PDA to remind you of a lunch meeting. Soldiers, linked by wireless networks, may soon be using theirs to make the right decisions about when to shoot-and when to hold fire.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.