The USS Colorado was recently commissioned in Providence, Rhode-Island. The nuclear-powered Virginia-class submarine is 377’ long, has a crew of 130 sailors, and can reach underwater speeds of nearly 30 mph. It also features two missile tubes capable of launching up to six Tomahawk cruise missiles.
Another of its features is a complex periscope comprised of two photonic masts that can swivel 360 degrees on telescoping arms. It utilizes high-resolution cameras that send images to monitors in a control room that would make Dr. Nemo jealous. And all of this imaging is made possible by a $30 Xbox video game controller that can be found at most big box retailers.
The decision to use the Xbox controller came from feedback on the control systems that were in place. It seems the former controls for the periscope were heavy and uncomfortable to handle. In addition to the level of familiarity that the current generation of sailors has with this type of hand-held controller, Lockheed Martin tested a number of possible replacements before landing on the Xbox option. These replacement options included experimenting with tablets and Microsoft’s Kinect technology.
The move from a $38,000 control panel to a video game controller has provided a couple of benefits. Not only does the familiarity with such a controller help to reduce training time significantly, but the ability to find a replacement is much easier and considerably less expensive.