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GCN : July 2014
8 GCN JULY 2014 • GCN.COM [BrieFing] Soon soldiers may be able to navigate the battle eld --- by feel. The Army Research Laboratory is de- veloping haptic technology that directs soldiers on the ground via vibrations, enabling them to maneuver and visually focus on their environments without reading a map. "Data are still being compiled; however, it is clear that soldiers rarely looked at the visual display when the tactile belt was 'on.' Soldier feedback was very positive," said Gina Hartnett, from the Human Research and Engi- neering Directorate (HRED) Fort Rucker, Ala., said. The miniature haptic technology resides in a lightweight belt worn by the soldier, although the technology could be placed in any number of objects, such as a glove, belt, inside the helmet or vest. The belt vibrating in the front indi- cates the soldier should move forward. If the vibration is on the right side, the soldier should turn to the right, and so forth. The belt also can be used to warn soldiers of potential threats, provide status updates and communicate with other soldiers or intelligent robots. Different, unique pattern vibrations, similar to Morse code, distinguish what information is being relayed and what the soldier should do. Researchers describe the technology as "hands-free, eyes-free and mind- free." Tests demonstrated that soldiers were able to quickly learn the system, attain- ing pro ciency with the signals within 10 to 15 minutes. The most recent tests of the sys- tem were by soldiers at Fort Benning. Soldiers reported that they liked the technology, as it allowed them "to concentrate on other things and not the screen." "This assessment gave us a great example of how a device can free up the senses so effectively. Course times were faster on tactile-assisted naviga- tion legs. Soldiers reported being more situationally aware of their surround- ing because they rarely, if ever, had to take their eyes off of their environment. Additionally, not having to interact with a visual display allowed their hands to stay on their weapon," Hartnett said. More tests of the system remain. "We are trying to collect more basic data, to identify the factors that make a tactile signal 'salient' -- easily felt, immediately recognized and distinguished from oth- ers." said Dr. Linda Elliott, from HRED's Fort Benning eld element. • Navigation by vibration: Army lab tests haptic tech BY KATHLEEN HICKEY Accela Inc., which says its mission is connecting citizens with govern- ment, launched CivicData, a cloud- based open data portal that combines information from of cial government sources and public users, providing researchers one place to nd multiple data sets. Typically, governments manage their own stand-alone open data portals, which means someone searching for information would have to go to indi- vidual agency sites to collect what they need, said Mark Headd, a technical evangelist at Accela, which launched CivicData late last year. Instead, the rm aims to offer a one-stop, multijurisdictional portal for public sector data sets. Currently the site has about 30 governments publishing data, about 200 registered users and about 90 data sets, ranging from New York City Bike Share trip data to Port of San Fran- cisco permit information. By year's end Accela hopes to double the number of governments us- ing the site, triple the number of users and increase the number of data sets tenfold. "Certainly it's laudable that govern- ments are publishing their open data and making it available for people to use," Headd said. "We thought it would be really excit- ing to bring together data from agen- cies from across the country, make it discoverable and allow people to browse it in one place," he said. Accela thinks of CivicData as the Data.gov of state and local govern- ments, referring to the Obama adminis- tration's open data portal. Whereas all federal agencies publish data to Data. gov, CivicData is currently populated with information heavy on licensing and permits from Accela customers, which tend to be state and local govern- ments, Headd said. It's open to federal entities and foreign governments too, however. Like Data.gov, CivicData is built on CKAN, an open-source data por- tal platform developed by the Open Knowledge Foundation. "That's really a unique feature of the platform," Headd said. "It allows us to invite multiple parties, whether they're governments or non-governments, to add data to the site, and it allows users to run queries across those different data sets and to mash them up in new and interesting ways." • Portal aims to be Data.gov for state and local agencies BY STEPHANIE KANOWITZ