U.S. Navy replacing photonic mast handgrips with Xbox 360 controllers

Gaming / Tech / Xbox
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It seems the testing went so well that Xbox 360 controllers are being implemented in place of the older photonic mast handgrips — not to mention the cost savings.

Image courtesy Lockheed Martin.

Whoever says gaming doesn’t pay off, you can add the U.S. Navy to the list of people and organizations who say otherwise. Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Navy have been experimenting with technology in their own “Area 51.” In a small mock control room, researchers are testing commercial software and hardware in control room settings for Los Angeles and Virginia-class submarines.

“If we have a good idea, we bring it in here and try it out. It may work, it may not,” said Jacob Shultz at Lockheed Martin. “And because we try, we get the best, proven solutions to the fleet faster. The point is we have an environment in which we can do more than talk about the art of the possible, in here we make it happen.”

One of Lockheed Martin’s “Experiments in a Digital Age: The Navy’s Version of Area 51” included replacing costly photonic mast handgrips with Xbox 360 controllers.

Today’s submarines use photonic masts that rotate 360 degrees to provide operators with real-time situational awareness above the water. The original mast handgrips were based on helicopter joysticks, which were expensive, heavy and cumbersome to operate and required hours of training. Based on sailors’ familiarity with gaming environments, Area 51 engineers programmed an Xbox controller to interface more seamlessly with the imaging control panel. The sailors who test drove the technology were able to intuitively control the periscope within minutes without any training. Thanks to a good idea and some formalized testing, the Navy is replacing the photonic mast handgrip and imaging control panel (approx. $38,000) with an Xbox 360 controller.

So it seems the testing went so well that Xbox 360 controllers are being implemented in place of the older photonic mast handgrips — not to mention that the cost savings was huge (roughly $37,965 per handgrip).

What do you think about gaming tech making its way into more complex, real-world operations? Have you seen other cool applications of gaming hardware used for technical or business applications? Let us know in the comments below or on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook.

  Source: Lockheed Martin
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