6 real-world technologies inspired by video games

Halo Master Chief

While you may wish that you could have all the technologies available to you that you see in video games, the future is closer than you think. Here are six real-world technologies that were inspired by video games:

Medpac

A medpac (also spelt medpack or medipack) is a first-aid kit that video game characters can walk over while playing to heal any injuries or improve health. Scientists have begun developing medical items that closely resemble a virtual medpac.

A college student named Joe Landolina has invented a gel that can be squirted directly onto a wound to immediately stop it bleeding. It binds cells together and triggers the body’s natural clotting mechanism.

Scientists from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency have also been hard at work creating a foam that stabilizes internal bleeding. It doesn’t completely heal a wound, but helps to buy time until the injured person can receive proper medical attention by dramatically slowing down bleeding. The fact that the foam is easy to remove means it doesn’t hinder any surgery that later needs to be performed.

Programmable grenade

A government scientist played Gears of War for a weekend and got inspired to create a grenade that uses smart technology. The XM-25 Counter Defilade Target Engagement (CDTE) system is equipped with programmable grenades that can be set to detonate at a specific point in space (for example, above an enemy’s head). It then sprays shrapnel downwards.

This semi-automatic, gas-operated smart grenade launcher was fielded to soldiers serving in the Afghanistan War in 2010. There was an incident in 2013 where the system malfunctioned, causing injuries to a US soldier. However, the issue has been rectified and it will officially enter service this year.

Auto-aim

Many video games use auto-aim (or aimbot), where your character can shoot without the need to aim. This convenient cheat in multiplayer first-person shooters has been used since Quake in the 1990s.

Auto-aim now comes to the real world in the form of the $17,000 XS1 Linux-powered rifle created by a company called TrackingPoint. (And, yes, the “Linux” here refers to the operating system.)

The rifle has a tracking button which when pressed marks the target and even follows it when it moves. Once the target has been marked, you simply hold the trigger and line up a dot with the first mark. Once the two are aligned the rifle automatically fires. It also takes into account wind speed, elevation and so forth.

Heads-up display

You know those in-game statistics displayed on your screen that show you where you are on a map, the contents of your inventory, your health, and so on? That is called a heads-up display (HUD), and its development in real life has been very successful so far. You may recognize the qualities of an HUD as the same technology seen in Google Glass.

Engineers at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea are improving upon the Google Glass idea through creation of soft contact lenses that have the same benefits as Google Glass but without the partial obstruction of vision.

These lenses are different to other electronic contact lenses, in that off-the-shelf contact lenses can be used to mount an inorganic, light-emitting diode on. Not only can this technology be used to create HUDs, but it can also be used in touch screens, flat-screen TVs, solar cells and light-emitting devices. This technology will reduce degradation over time as well as the cost of making certain appliances.

Exoskeletons

John-117 or Master Chief, the main protagonist of the Halo universe, employs a muscular suit underneath his armour to help ward off enemies. Something similar is in development over at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University after being awarded a $2.9 million contract.

The Wyss Institute is developing a soft exoskeleton as part of the Warrior Web program, which “seeks to develop the technologies required to prevent and reduce musculoskeletal injuries caused by dynamic events typically found in the warfighter’s environment.”

The development of exoskeletons is nothing new, but until now they have been made of massive steel and plastic frames that consume large amounts of power and interfere with the wearer’s natural movements. The Wyss Institute’s Soft Exosuit, however, uses computer-controlled textiles and wires that are not simply passive supports. This suit is made to be a powered robotic system that mimics the wearer’s muscles to provide timed boosts to increase strength when needed and reduce walking fatigue.

Ammo counter

While shooting furiously at virtual enemies it’s quite important to know how much ammo you have left so that you can get more or retreat. In real life counting ammo as it leaves your gun is difficult, because human beings get distracted, lost in the moment or count wrong.

Now inventor Michael Ciuffo has created a real-life ammo counter. This is a tiny computer that attaches to an automatic weapon, runs on AAA batteries and uses an accelerometer to measure the recoil of each shot. You can view a test video of the ammo counter here. Unfortunately this is not for sale, but if you search a little further you’ll see that many manufacturers have come up with similar products that are available for purchase.