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From Bikes to Baghdad: Enterprise Team Works with Marquette Firm on Video for the Battlefield

 
Michigan Tech’s Integrated Microsystems Enterprise has been tapped by Marquette firm V.I.O. Inc. to field-test the POV.1, a small, wearable video camera tailored for the military.

The ultimate goal is to develop a completely wireless transmission system, so what a soldier sees and hears on the battlefield can be viewed and recorded at a remote command post. The project is funded by the Army Research Lab.

The digital POV.1 (for “point of view”) is an offspring of V.I.O.’s earlier Adventure Cam analog video camera systems, long favorites of cyclists, snowboarders and other sporting enthusiasts. Users strap the cameras (which are about the size of a small microphone) to helmets, handlebars or about anything else, record the action, and then play back movies on their computers or other video equipment.

“We got into the military market when mountain bikers became soldiers,” said V.I.O.'s President Richard Anderson. “They wanted to bring this device with them on patrols to get information and do after-action reporting. Another big use has been to help train incoming troops.”

It’s serious business, but the students’ first assignment has been to have fun.

“We put the POV.1 on everything we could find,” said Lewis Sweet, a computer engineering senior and president of the Enterprise. “Mountain bikes, hockey helmets . . . We took it ice skating. We put it on a helmet for broomball and recorded the game.”

Anderson says college students, especially Michigan Tech college students, are a perfect fit for the project.

“Our founder was a mountain biker interested in capturing the ride,” he said. “It’s not surprising that students are comfortable with the technology and see its potential.”

The student team has the skills to investigate the POV.1 and adapt it to wireless technologies, said Senior Research Engineer II Rick Berkey, who helped set up the partnership with V.I.O. “Plus, they offer that fresh perspective, and they can focus all their energies on this project, while V.I.O. has a business to run. A nice way to for them to flex muscles, as well as build a better relationship with a nearby company.”

To understand the needs of a broader market, the team has also surveyed police and other first responders to determine what other technologies are available.

“There's motivation among police to get video of every action, so they don't have to rely on eye witnesses,” said Paul Bergstrom, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and the team’s advisor.

The Enterprise team has already recommended a few design changes and is working on the streaming video. “With some tweaking, this could be ideal,” says team president Sweet. “Plus, it’s giving us good exposure to how to work externally with a company. You get to see real engineering.”

The partnership is benefiting all parties, says V.I.O’s Anderson. “It’s been a great experience,” he said. “And ultimately, Michigan Tech’s work will help command centers more easily see battle centers in real time.”

To learn more about the POV.1, visit https://www.vio-pov.com/ .

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February 22, 2008