Author’s note: I’ve been hired to write marketing material for Ubisoft’s new game Ghost Recon: Future Soldier.
In chaotic combat, information is vital: knowing where you are, where the enemy is, and what the most immediate threats are. But too much information can be a distraction — and in a firefight, it can get you killed.
A perfect balance between information and simplicity is one of the holy grails of modern combat, and the driving force behind one of the most impressive new military technologies. Namely a “smart screen” conveniently displaying the most important battlefield info.
This “augmented reality” system is a key feature of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier™. The game developers grappled with the same info vs. simplicity dilemma that’s present in the real world. “There’s a temptation to make it look cooler by adding more whiz-bang animations and extra info to make it feel like an in-depth system,” says Authenticity Coordinator Travis Getz, “but eventually this all got eliminated or pushed way back to allow the pertinent information top billing.”
Augmented reality began as a heads-up (HUD) system for military aircraft. As warplanes became faster and more complex during World War II, they also grew more dangerous for pilots. Pilots found themselves spending more time scanning their instruments instead of looking around for enemy attackers. So, British scientists developed a system that projected radar onto the fighter’s windscreen. This way, a pilot could keep an eye on his radarscope without putting his head down.