Army Research Producing New Technology: Digital Fibers

Faye Higbee
army research

Army research is producing new technology that can be good or bad, depending on your point of view. But it is amazing, that is one thing we can all agree on. Uniforms made of fibers that contain AI technology that can even track a soldier and let his/her buddies know where they are , and even whether they are injured or down from a medical issue. We’re living in a new age.

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Uniform AI fibers: “You wouldn’t know it was there.”

Army research at the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN) has created a programmable digital fiber that can be sewn into uniforms. The fiber can sense, store information, analyze data and even track a soldier wearing it. It can also transmit data to outside sources. The Army research project was published in Nature Communications – you can read how they created the fibers at that link.

We could outfit our Soldiers with uniforms that could generate power, give them vital information about their physiology and environmental exposures, provide their location to their team and alert someone if they incur an injury. All of this could be done with very little increase in weight carried by the Soldier.

Dr. James Burgess, ISN program manager for the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM)

The digital fibers are thin and can pass through a needle because they are extremely flexible and lightweight. It can even be washed 10 times before breaking down.

Programmable nanofibers – US Army photo

Adding AI technology

The fiber also takes a few steps forward into artificial intelligence by including, within the fiber memory, a neural network of 1,650 connections. After sewing it around the armpit of a shirt, the researchers used the fiber to collect 270 minutes of surface body temperature data from a person wearing the shirt, and analyzed how these data corresponded to different physical activities. Trained on these data, the fiber was able to determine with 96 percent accuracy the activity in which the person wearing the shirt was participating.

US Army research

The upside of this is that soldiers wearing it could be alerted to their own body if they were exposed to toxins, or even if they were headed toward unknown heart or breathing problems in training (which as we know has happened). The fiber is currently controlled by an external device, but researchers are looking to create a microcontroller that will be inside the fibers themselves.

The downside? AI technology may be cutting edge, but if it falls into the wrong hands, serious problems could arise. Soldiers locations, their body physiology, what they encounter environmentally…if these digital fibers are programmable as Army research claims, then the technology must be closely guarded from our enemies. Currently it is in conjunction with the National Science Foundation, the MIT Sea Grant and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. 


Featured photo: US Army

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