NAVY TAKING STEP FORWARD BY LOOKING BACK TO OLD XBOX 360 CONTROLLERS
Okay, that kind of headline might give one pause. But it really does make sense after you read on a bit. Microsoft has discontinued its use of the old Xbox 360 controller, but the military still sees real utility in mobilizing them to be used to control the very latest and greatest gadgets and vehicles that have come out of the world’s most funded R&D contractors. But at the very least, we can report that these old controllers are to be used straightaway on the latest nuclear-powered submarines.
HIGH-TECH SUBS NOW USE MULTIPLE, DIGITAL CAMERAS MOUNTED TO HULL THAT NEED A REMOTE, EASY TO USE CONTROLLER
Our Virginia-class submarines have gone digital and no longer use the old optical single-view rotating periscopes that we’ve all seen in every submarine movie. The new digital age has these subs outfitted with multiple, mast-mounted cameras that can be viewed on multiple screens. Since their implementation they’ve been controlled by custom joysticks that cost about $38,000 a piece. Plus they were so complicated that they took hours and hours of training for a sailor to use properly.
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NAVY TO PAY $39.95 FOR XBOX CONTROLLER, DOWN FROM COMPLICATED $38,000 PROFITEERING GOUGER
But the Navy has realized that the Xbox 360 controller is cheaper ($39.95) and easier to learn. Senior Chief Mark Eichenlaub, assistant navigator of the USS John Warner, a submarine that has started using Xbox controllers, told The Virginian-Pilot, “I can go to any video game store and procure an Xbox controller anywhere in the world, so it makes a very easy replacement.”
USS John Warner assistant weapons officer, Lt. j.g Kyle Leonard, told The Virginian-Pilot that the Navy polled junior officers about ways to make their duties easier. Many of the officers and sailors complained that the expensive military joysticks are clunky and heavy.
NAVY NO STRANGER TO USING GAMING TECH, MILLENNIALS CAN BE PLUG AND PLAY
This is far from the first time the US military has used gaming technology with their crafts and weapons. The Army has used a Xbox 360 controller to operate its high-energy laser gun built to blast mortar shells and drones. About a decade ago, tech reporters started noticing Xbox controllers in images and videos of military combat demonstrations. Even back then, journalist pointed out that using technology that war-bound millennials are comfortable with is a good way to cut training time.
Lockheed Martin reportedly came up with the idea of using Xbox controllers for Virginia-class submarine periscopes at their “classified research lab” in Manassas, Virginia, where sailors work with engineers to find ways to use commercial hardware and software—like Xbox Kinect and 360 controllers, touch tablets, and Google Earth—in Navy submarines.
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The company says it refers to the lab as “Area 51,” because, like the storied Air Force base in Nevada, the Manassas research lab was classified (at least, according to Lockheed Martin). But with all the gaming tech involved, the name is also reminiscent of the popular Area 51 arcade game.
And Lockheed Martin almost looks as if its trying to entice gamers with its promotional images of the classified lab that look like stills from a video game about the military using futuristic tech to fight aliens. Microsoft did not immediately offer a response when reached for comment on military departments using their gaming technology.