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TrackingPoint's sensor-packed smart gun redefines the term 'point and shoot'

Alex Wawro | Aug. 1, 2013
TrackingPoint's Linux-powered hunting rifle employs cutting-edge tracking technology to make anyone an excellent marksman.

Once you see something you want to shoot—a trophy buck, for example—you place your crosshairs over the spot you want to hit, and press the bright red Tag button on the right side of the gun's trigger housing. The PGF's onboard technology kicks in and measures the distance to your target using laser rangefinders, and then calculates the perfect angle for the shot, factoring in data such as ambient temperature, barometric pressure, and rifle angle. It pulls all of this information from myriad sensors built into the rifle barrel.

The PGF's computer correlates the data with manually inputted wind speed and direction data. The computer also accounts for the ballistic characteristics of the rifle and its ammunition, then paints a little red dot over the spot you tagged—the trophy buck's left shoulder, for example—and puts a big blue X on the HUD. The X turns red (signalling that it's time to shoot) only when the computer determines that the rifle is positioned to hit the target with near-perfect accuracy.

There's even embedded technology to prevent you from making a bad shot before the X turns red: The trigger itself will push back on your finger until the computer determines that your shot will hit the target as intended. Once it's confident that the shot will be accurate, the trigger's resistance plummets, and the rifle fires.

This lock-on technology also improves weapon safety, by preventing a hunter from making stupid mistakes—though the user can disable the advanced tracking mode at any time, at which point the PGF can be fired at will like any other dumb rifle. TrackingPoint is building these weapons for hunting enthusiasts, but it also hopes to partner with military and law enforcement agencies, neither of which has an interest in a rifle that refuses to fire when you pull the trigger.

If your target wanders a bit—as game animals tend to do—the PGF tracks it and ensures that your tag remains on the precise spot where you left it. To pull off this trick, the onboard CPU tracks the direction and speed of your target's movement using proprietary image-processing software. For this capability, you can thank tracking algorithms reminiscent of the ones Samsung uses to track your head movements when you're using the Galaxy S4. As long as your target doesn't move faster than 10 miles per hour and doesn't leave the bounds of the rifle's image sensor, the software will track it and update the position of your red tracking dot accordingly.

During a product demo at the TechHive offices, Schauble used the XS1 PGF to lock onto targets as small as a single flower on the stem of a potted plant hanging from a nearby balcony. He concedes, however, that the PGF's target-tracking software can be fooled by objects with similar colors and speeds—such as one white truck passing another white truck on the highway, as Schauble pointed out.

 

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