“Imagine a tourist arriving in a foreign city,” the Israeli intel officer tells me, “the first thing they do is open Google Maps and look for a restaurant. Google helps them find a place. Helps them navigate. Helps them get there on time. We do the same.” Well, not exactly. The augmented reality mapping application Lieutenant-Colonel “N” is describing is designed to find hidden terrorists, not restaurants. “Mistakes can be fatal,” he tells me, “we need to get the right house on the right street.”
Welcome to the battlefield of the future—artificial intelligence, multi-source data fusion, augmented reality. Everything edge-based and real-time. Except this isn’t really a battlefield, as such. “What happened to us,” the officer tells me, “is that our enemies have adopted a technique to merge into urban areas populated with civilians, we need to unveil the enemy, precisely, and stop the threat.”
So, now you start to get the picture. Think Google Street View—except it’s not Google. And an augmented reality overlay that comes from the fusion of multiple sources of highly classified intelligence not big tech’s cloud servers And if that isn’t enough, there’s also AI running pattern analytics on prior enemy tactics, techniques and procedures to infer what a hidden enemy is likely to do next, in real time.
This is military augmented reality and it’s not unique—such systems are under development, gaming-style headsets overlaying friendlies and likely combatants, helping targeting and the avoidance of blue on blue. Israel’s new system is different, though. The augmented reality comes from the fusion of multiple intel sources, the intent is not to present ground troops with an advanced gaming-style view of the battlefield, but to use live data to infer where actual targets are hiding.
Picture this Street View lookalike again—no screenshots, I’m afraid, it’s classified. Arrows and graphics explain to a soldier on the ground why the third-floor apartment with the wrought iron balcony is deemed a hostile environment, why anyone exiting the building can be considered a combatant. The intent is to root out threats, but also to keep others safe, to avoid collateral damage. “We need to make sure we only target the aggressor and not any civilians,” Lt-Col “N” tells me.