Israel is always a nation known to be very creative and innovative in finding out solutions to any problem. Their military features cutting edge technology almost no other nation other than a select few could dare to possess. A tiny nation surrounded by enemies on all sides has to get creative and rely on ingenuity to get the job done. And one outcome of the sheer power of Israeli Innovation comes in the form of the newly revealed Carmel Tank, a Weapon of War powered and operated by Xbox Controllers!
Yep you heard that right!!
The Khaki colored tank with multiple layers of specially treated anti-armor piercing steel looks like a beats from the outside. At first glance, it looks like a very sophisticated piece of weaponry that you need special training to drive and manage. But the real juice is in the inside of the tank. While the outside features complicated arrays of sensors, projectile sensing radar, and Smoke screen launchers, the inside is a stark contrast. The Carmel Tank has a back hatch instead of a top one. And once you enter the back hatch and close it on your way in that is when you have a sight to behold.
The crew compartment of the tank is basically the mirror image of an average teenager’s room. It is dark and the medium via which the driver can look at the road is via panoramic screens that give a 360 degree view of the tank surroundings. Tablet devices hang from the ceiling and pop out of the dashboard to help the driver handle all the functions of the tank including changing tank rounds and communications. But it is the way in which the tank is driven forward that will catch your attention.
All the weapons systems, steering, and auxiliary functionalities could be controlled directly via a Microsoft Xbox Controller.
The reason for such introducing a radical change in Israeli tank design was simple. Many of the recruits for the Israeli Army that end up operating as a tank crew member are within the range of 18 to 21. They have just come past their teenage years. In the 21st Century, almost all teenagers have access to consoles and have played video games in platforms like Playstation and Xbox.
The design was not a stroke of luck. It was not a fluke at all. In fact, it was a calculated movie by the IAI – Israeli Aerospace Industries. They roped in a number of avid teenage gamers to play many version of steering control for the tank. The engineers intended to create a driving mechanism which ws easy to understand for people between the ages of 18 to 21, thus saving time and resource on training tank crews. The initial prototype was of a multi-mode joystick that would have driven the tank around like pilot controls a fighter jet. As several iterations were drawn from the feedback received, the Microsoft Xbox Controller with dual thumb-sticks, Bumpers, front buttons, and triggers was designed to replace the classic and traditional steering wheel and switches.
IAI intended to create a mechanism which was lighter, more portable, and user-friendly.
The IAI even used design principles taken straight out of a video game. The way the display is shown and the way icons flash on the screen are reminiscent of a video game. According to some engineers, they designed the display to be similar to what it looks like when one plays Apex Legends or PUBG. The screen will show the ‘player’ the available ammunition, the types of weapons available, and the surrounding blips that would represent enemy movement. The only difference is that this is no game. While driving the Carmel with the Xbox controller, there are literally lives at stake. There is no round two.
It is not like the idea of using game consoles in weapons of war has not been tried before. The US Navy commissioned the USS Colorado, a submarine that came equipped with an Xbox Controller operated automated periscope. In 2014, Boeing used a similar design to control their High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator aka HELMO. Nintendo Wii controllers have been used to control bomb disposal robots.
With all these new advancements, this is the question that we need to answer – Will using an Xbox Controller to drive a tank, a weapon that can kill dozens of people with a single shot of its cannon, reduce the art of war to a video game? Will the soldiers be even serious enough while fighting the enemy? Food for thought!!