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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.

High-tech guns have their own apps

The video from the gun's camera doesn't just stream to your scope. It also broadcasts to other devices connected to the PGF, which creates its own wireless network. Right now, you can download Android and iOS apps that let you update firmware; remotely lock down the rifle's advanced tracking technology with a passcode; or stream images or video from the rifle's camera to the Internet. There's even a mock hunting game called TrackingPoint Precision Hunter that lets you virtually tag, track, and hunt animals.

One of the most remarkable—or disconcerting—things about the PGF isn't that it has a spinoff hunting game. It's that building a video camera and a head-up display into a high-tech rifle can make real-life hunting look like a game. Schauble, who previously worked at Remington and helped game developers at Infinity Ward improve the realism of the guns in Call of Duty, doesn't shy away from the comparison. "This technology makes firing a rifle more like a video game, sure, but marksmanship has always been a game," says Schauble. "We're just improving the experience."

For good or evil

It's impossible to think about the PGF without imagining how this technology could be used for evil. For their part, the folks at TrackingPoint acknowledge the dangers of selling a high-tech firearm that imbues untrained shooters with deadly, long-range accuracy. "It's new technology, and technology can always be used for good or evil," says Lupher. "We vet every customer that buys our product, and adhere to the letter of the law when it comes to selling firearms."

Ultimately, the question of whether weapons should be outfitted with this kind of tracking technology is moot. TrackingPoint did it—and if it hadn't, some other company inevitably would have. It won't be long before other private arms manufacturers start improving on the idea, and in five or ten years the notion of owning a weapon that can't be locked via a smartphone app may seem ridiculous. TrackingPoint is also working to adapt the technology for military applications—especially unmanned aerial drones, in hopes of building a "zero collateral damage" drone with extremely precise firing capabilities.

We can't stop weapons technology from evolving, but we can benefit from it. The "Super Gun" project is bombastic, sure, but it also pushes the boundaries of ballistic science. To build a high-tech firearm that can hit a target 1.75 miles away with pinpoint accuracy, TrackingPoint must rigorously research and account for the precise influence that forces such as Earth's gravitational pull and the Coriolis effect have on small objects traveling long distances.

Lupher says TrackingPoint is also investigating how to incorporate the PGF's optical tech into more than just weapons: birdwatching binoculars that could track and identify birds, for example, or naval binoculars that could wirelessly feed orienteering data to a boat's navigational computer. If the company succeeds in building a working "Super Gun," it will be a bona fide scientific achievement, one that could be lead to the development of better digital rangefinders, better air-traffic control systems, and better sniper rifles.


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