May 08

Commandos Now Play Digital Brain Games as War Prep (Wired, May 8, 2012):


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U.S. special operations forces carry out some the military’s toughest, most high-stakes missions. To pull them off, the commandos need speed, agility and swift perception skills akin to those of top-tier professional athletes. That might explain why the military’s latest commando training program will rely on a virtual-reality system already employed by pro sports teams.

The system, called “NeuroTracker,” was designed by CogniSens, a company spun out of the neurophysics lab of Dr. Jocelyn Faubert, a researcher at Canada’s University of Montreal. NeuroTracker has until now been deployed almost exclusively for athletic training: It’s used by several teams in the NFL and NHL, as well as at Olympic training centers in a handful of European countries.

Now commandos are going to get the NeuroTracker treatment as well. According to an announcement released last week, U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) plans to purchase the NeuroTracker system in an effort to “improve situational awareness, multiple target tracking and decision-making efficiency” among operatives.

As the system’s name suggests, “NeuroTracker” won’t rely on bicep curls and wind sprints to get commandos into tip-top shape. Instead, NeuroTracker is designed to prep the brain for fast-paced, confusing situations — like those that occur in combat or on a sports field. And to do it, the system relies almost entirely on balls.

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