by Stephanie Overby

Military Technology: Wrist Warrior

Jul 01, 20052 mins
Data Center

It looks like an amped-up wristwatch, but the V-Rambo uses analog video technology to receive live images and telemetry data from sources such as surveillance aircraft and satellites and deliver them to soliders in combat.

Step aside, Stallone. There’s a new Rambo on the front lines: V-Rambo, short for Video Receiver and Monitor for Battlefield Operations.

More technologically sophisticated than the movie character of the same name, the V-Rambo consists of a video receiver, rechargeable battery and an antenna that hooks up to a 3-and-a-half-inch video monitor that straps to a soldier’s wrist.

Introduced by Holon, Israel-based Tadiran Spectralink, the V-Rambo uses analog video technology to receive live images and telemetry data from sources such as surveillance aircraft and satellites. The device displays the information in real-time on the color screen on the soldier’s wrist. (It also works with laptops and PDAs.) The receiver is best suited to transmitting analog video, says John Kenkel, senior director for Jane’s Strategic Advisory Services. “If they were using it for more sophisticated tasks, such as integrating with a mapping system, they’d use digital technology for more accuracy,” he explains.

The closest technology in development in the United States is a video device incorporated into the U.S. Army’s $2 billion “Land Warrior” project to equip the 21st-century soldier. Raytheon Systems is developing a helmet-mounted computer and display that will allow a soldier to view data such as digital maps, as well as video from a weapon-mounted camera. But implementation of the Land Warrior system is not expected until 2010 at the earliest.

V-Rambo has been in use by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) since last year, according to Tadiran Spectralink President and CEO Itzhak Beni. The device has shortened the time it takes to locate and neutralize enemy targets from minutes to seconds, and it has reduced voice traffic on busy radio networks for the IDF, says Beni. The company also sees potential uses for homeland security and police.

But civilians shouldn’t get too excited. A video wristwatch that could detect a traffic jam around the next corner or keep an eye on your kids at school probably isn’t in the offing. Avi Peleg, Tadiran Spectralink’s vice president of sales, doesn’t envision consumer applications because of the costs involved in developing and deploying the system. The closest thing we could find is a $199.95 wristwatch television from Hammacher Schlemmer, which, with a screen less than two inches square and local TV reception only, is nowhere near as useful.