Researchers at the University of Missouri have built a piece of software that could change the way that war is fought and football games are won. The application is designed to track distance, speed and direction of objects whether they are running backs or enemy combatants. Conceivably, a soldier could use a smartphone to keep track of enemy contacts. The same technology in the hands of a football coach could be used to test the feasibility of a new playbook.
“The great advantage of a smartphone is that it provides so many tools in a single, readily available, relatively inexpensive package,” said Qia Wang, a doctoral student in MU’s College of Engineering who led the development of the software. “For example, on the battlefield, a soldier needs a rangefinder, compass, GPS and other tools to do reconnaissance before calling in an air strike. With our software, the soldier can have all those instruments in one device that can be purchased off the shelf. When that soldier returns from war, she can use the same software to protect her family by clocking a speeder near her children’s school and catching the culprit on video.”
What makes the app revolutionary is its ability to track objects of both known and unknown size. Those two processes require very different mechanisms, but Wang and his colleagues claim to have cracked both codes with a single piece of software.
“Currently, our software is limited by the physical abilities of smartphone hardware, but the devices are improving rapidly,” Wang said. “We anticipate that improvements in GPS accuracy, battery life and camera resolution will allow our software to make even more accurate observations. We also are making our software more user-friendly.”
It is a bit concerning that user-friendly is an amendment rather than the initial concern, but even if this development is too complicated for widespread distribution, someone will learn from Wang's research and built an app that the rest of us can use.
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Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli