Soldiers’ Super Suits Will Sense Surroundings Soon
Tooth microphones and spider senses could be coming to a battlefield near you.
Imagine being able to communicate hands-free, with no visible earbuds or headset, via a small microphone that lives in your mouth and transmits data wirelessly through your clothing. The suit you’re wearing also picks up biophysical data on your state of being and sends that to a commander with no additional input from you. That’s the vision of a new company that merges handsfree tooth microphones with electronics-embedded apparel to create new communication capabilities for soldiers.
The company, dubbed Integrated Tactical Technologies, or iT2, is set to launch next Tuesday. It was formed through the acquisition of Sonitus Technologies and a partnership with uniform maker Bluewater Defense. Sonitus is the maker of the Molar Mic.
The Molar Mic is a hands-free radio that goes in the mouth. It picks up sound and sends it through the jaw bone and skull to the nerves behind the ear, allowing the wearer to pick up voice communication with no headset.
In the original design, outgoing sound was transferred to a radio transceiver and then to a smaller concealed radio. The Defense Innovation Unit and In-Q-Tel were early backers of the project, and it’s been tested by soldiers that were deployed to Afghanistan.
The merger will take the Molar Mic technology and join it with a suite of electronics that will be embedded in an actual suit, getting rid of the need for a separate radio. As Molar Mic founder Peter Hadrovic explained, pairing the microphone with new radio and sensing electronics embedded in fabric helped to make an entirely new capability, a sort of sensor suit.
“It has sensing. It has computing power on the body. It has the ability for different interfaces: Molar Mic is one. [Augmented Reality] glasses is another, and haptic signaling [mimicking touch] through the textile,” he said.
The suit can wirelessly transmit the data to the cloud or perform some small calculations on the body itself if communications are contested.
“Think of this as a base layer for communication, especially our core, on-the-body wireless field…When high bandwidth data is required, what our system is able to do is turn on and off,” he said.
The new merger comes at a time when the U.S. military is working to find new ways to better manage human and machine teaming and give operators the ability to communicate with small drones, other robots, and other technology via voice command or haptic—touch-like—communication.
The military is also looking to collect more information from deployed operators that can speak to their physical state or other concerns, so that commanders can immediately see who might be in trouble without having to receive distress signals. Consumer wearable devices like the Fitbit or the Oura Ring can provide some of that, but not as fully as suit embedded sensors.
“A major challenge facing new entrants in the wearables market has been the inability to produce new solutions in quantities great enough to achieve commercial viability. iT2 addressed this challenge from the get-go through a manufacturing partnership with Bluewater Defense,” the company notes in a statement obtained by Defense One prior to the company’s launch next Tuesday.