Sunday, February 24, 2008

iPods in the War Zone

I ran across this story about iPods, and found it pretty interesting. To summarize from the article...

"As they prepare for their daily patrols around Baghdad, soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division sync up their iPods, not with songs and movies, but with a laundry list of missions and audio files containing pre-recorded phrases in Iraqi Arabic or Kurdish.

Loaded with special Vcommunicator software, the music players help them communicate with the populace and learn the local culture, and they occasionally serve as handy tools in their tactical missions, such as searching for persons of interest. The gadgets have been so useful that troops are now finding new ways to employ the technology.

The simplicity that has made the iPod, so successful as a music player also relates to its combat applications. Soldiers simply scroll through as they search for mission data or for spoken phrases. The display shows the sentence phonetically and in script, and the user can play the corresponding audio clip, which also can be synced to an avatar, or computerized character, that gestures according to customs.

Connected to a speaker or megaphone, the device functions as a one-way language translator. Prior to having these devices, troops had to wait for an interpreter before they could engage local residents during patrols.

Troops also are uploading maps and other images and content onto the video iPods to assist them at vehide checkpoints and door-to-door searches. If soldiers are looking for a particular individual, they can load a photo of their target and correlate it to Arabic script that asks, "Do you recognize this person?" Troops also can store sound clips and other pertinent information that they need to conduct mission briefs for small units, said Bright.

The most recent version of the Vcommunicator comes on the new iPod nano, which troops are strapping to their wrists or wearing on lanyards around their necks. The nano units are much faster, much smaller and more user-friendly."

In recognition of this new market, Apple has released a new color, "Desert Storm", in the nano line:

These should also appeal to the huntin' and fishin' guys.