Pentagon Lab Day shows off brain stimulators and more

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The Defense Department held its annual Lab Day last Thursday, bringing together members from military research labs all over the nation.

This year’s event at the Pentagon boasted technology DoD will use as it focuses on near-peer competition against countries like Russia and China.

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Federal News Network was at this year’s Lab Day to see exactly what the military services, DoD and the medical labs are researching.

Brain stimulators

Ever wanted electricity coursing through your neural complexes?

Now is your chance.

The Army is working on a neurostimulation device to better soldier performance. A small cloth helmet running DC current was on display at Lab Day.

“Neurostimulation holds promise for altering several aspects of soldier performance,” said Tad Brunyé, senior cognitive scientist at the Army Futures Command Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center. “We are looking at altering situational awareness, lethality and decision making. The hope is by administering neurostimulation to certain areas of the brain at certain times, we can enhance performance across those domains.”

Soldiers wear a cap that stimulates the brain. Brunyé said many people don’t feel anything, but some will feel a slight itching.

So far, tests have been fairly positive. Research from 2016 to 2019 showed stimulation can enhance navigation efficiency by 20%. It can increase creativity by 12% and increase facial memory by 30%.

Over the next three years the program is planning new research and development in conjunction with several academic and research partners. The program will build statistical models to guide research, leverage virtual reality to quantify the impacts of stimulation and conduct evaluations on the impacts of the system on the brain.

Heat exhaustion

Problems with heat during training are a serious issue for the military and it’s trying to make training safer for its troops.

The Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine is working on a way to track how hot soldiers get when they are doing exercises.

Mark Buller, a principal investigator at the institute, said his team is developing a heart rate sensor. However, it’s more than just that, it measures skin temperature and uses an algorithm to calculate core temperature.

“Our goal is to capture the pre-physiology data before somebody becomes injured and to have the post-data from when they go to the hospital,” Buller said. “Now, we have sort of a complete picture and our intent is to identify the markers of both heat exhaustion and heat stroke.”

The hope is to use biometrics to figure out beforehand when someone is about to succumb to a heat injury.

EAGLE

It’s a good thing EAGLE is easy to say, because what it stands for is a mouthful. The Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Secondary Payload Adapter Augmented Geosynchronous Laboratory Experiment is a way the Air Force plans to put more satellites in space with less launches.

Think of it like a ride-share program.

“The idea is to prove out a concept for a cheaper faster way to space to get satellites to orbit,” said Air Force Capt. Chris Tommila, EAGLE chief engineer. “The real piece that makes it less expensive is that typically when we have these big launch vehicles there’s a lot of excess volume and mass in that payload that goes unused. The idea is with our spacecraft design we can fit inside that extra space and it basically becomes a multiplier.”

EAGLE can fit in that space and add smaller satellites to it.

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