What I’ve learned from FPS computer games (and a recent outing to see Avatar) is this: When tech meets military maneuvers, things are bound to get bloody. But this is no game or work of fiction, says the UK’s Daily Mirror: In real life, soldiers in Afghanistan are using an iPhone app called BulletFlight to get an edge in combat against actual Taliban fighters.
Born out of computer game technology, the military grade ballistics program helps sharpshooters calculate how various factors — like wind and earth rotation — affect the trajectory of their bullets. BulletFlight even estimates the potential collateral damage (meaning, the app predicts the wounds the combatant will suffer), as well as helps the user lock onto long-range targets.
This isn’t the first time game tech has been used out in the field. Allied forces are already using modded Xbox 360 game controllers to drive robotic vehicles, and new kinds of radar are being developed from cheap supercomputers made out of chips harvested from PS3 consoles. British experts at BAE Systems, Rolls Royce, Airbus and the Williams Formula 1 motor racing team are collaborating on a project that involves using computer game consoles to test new gadgets.
"Historically the military have invested in developing technology to meet their specific requirements,” says Stuart McDougall of BAE. "This technology has then filtered down to everyone else… But increasingly, modern consumer gadgets are so powerful and so highly competitive that they're often ahead of the game — and much cheaper to buy in and adapt." BAE itself is looking into 3D graphics technology borrowed from the PS2 to power next-gen military engineering designs.
The BulletFlight app was created from game software and developed for military use. There are three versions of program in the App Store, ranging from $4 to $30, and these are just a few examples of the dozens of apps endorsed by the US military for use in Iraq and Afghanistan. Others include maps, survival books and tactical guides.
Among the many things I am grateful for, as 2009 comes to a close, is the fact that I will (hopefully) never need to use an iPhone app like this. But for those who do — I hope 2010 will see you home safely.