Monday, December 3, 2012

How to Build A Power Suit and/or Powered Armor, Part 4: Sensory Augmentation

Sorry for the delay, guys, City of Heroes closing bummed me out a lot more than I thought it would, I was in a funk about it for most of Saturday, and Sunday I had a big karate event to go to, sooooo yeah.

Anyhoo, we're onto the next post in our Build Your Own Powersuit series.  Sensory augmentation!  Quite a few different forms of sensory augmentation find their way into powersuits.  If you look into the Metroid Prime series, there's multiple types of visors involved, whereas the Halo series has had several as well.  Moving into movies and comic books we know Iron Man has all kinds of advanced targeting assistants, and in Batman Beyond Terry McGinnis has some cool surveillance capabilities in his cowl.

We'll take a look at vision options, first.  Assuming we're wearing a helmet with our suit, we've got a couple different routes to go.  One is to have a simple blast-resistant glass visor to see plainly out of, with some sort of HUD setup projecting on it.  The Air Force has some really cool stuff along these lines, both with HUD displays in the cockpit, and Helmet-Mounted Displays(HMDs).  Now, of course HMDs are awesome, but they're also quite technical to implement and expensive to boot.

For HUDs, your easiest bet would probably be to adapt the projection system from a system designed for your car, like this one for the display portion, and hook it up to your laptop that you would probably be driving your system with.  If you can figure out the display conversion, you can probably rig up a couple Python scripts to run at least minimal information by, like temperature outside the suit, how much battery life you have left, time of day, etc.

Of course, this is the bare basics.  If I had to pick my personal method of choice, I would have a very minimal transparent visor in my helmet, opting instead for more metal shielding my face.  I'd work mostly off of camera systems mounted onto the helmet, and then send the feeds into a pair of TV glasses, like the Vuzix Wrap 920s.  They've got HDMI adaptability so you can plug them right into an HDMI enabled laptop, and then all you need is a simple switching program to flip between various camera angles.  You could even do a picture-in-picture style view to give you shots of your rear and flank.  Grab a couple high-quality webcams, mount them on the armor, and you're in business.  Then we get imaginative.  A low-resolution FLIR camera runs you around $1,000 but lets you have Predator vision.  For a lower-cost night vision solution, you could snag a simple infrared security camera and hook it up(though you'd need to give it its own power supply since it's not inherently battery powered).

Augmented vision is cool, but so is augmented hearing!  If you have a full enclosed helmet, you're probably going to need some basic microphones mounted somewhere on your body to give you a feed anyway, and if you go with the TV glasses I recommended earlier you've already got ear buds to play the audio to.  Security microphones for surveillance are pretty cheap, though you need to adapt the cables to plug into your laptop and, again, conquer the wall current power supply problem(shouldn't be TOO difficult, since you already need to figure out a power source for your physical augmentations).  What's more, you could set up a switcher to have regular, close-range hearing, and then mount one mic into a parabolic sound collector dish to get long-range recordings for surveillance purposes.  There's a great tutorial on instructables on how to build your own parabolic collector using supplies from the dollar store.  Scale the principles up and you can get one working for your suit, as well.

As far as the other senses go, amplifying touch, smell, and taste are probably less important.  That said, if you have any ideas or reasons regarding these senses, I'd be glad to hear about them in the comments section below, or on the Facebook page!  That's gonna wrap up our post for today.  Tomorrow we're going to finish up our five-post long introspective on powersuits and powered armor with the armor and weapons design!  We'll take a look at modern armor types, what's coming down the pipe, and what sort of futuristic weaponry options we might have.  Until then, make sure to follow me on Twitter,  like the blog page on Facebook, and continue to be awesome.

Dan "DaRatmastah" Wallace

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