Army Seeks New Ideas to Enhance Soldier Performance

Army Seeks New Ideas to Enhance Soldier Performance

soldiers training
Photo by: U.S. Army/Calvin Reimold

In its quest to help soldiers enhance their physical and mental performance, Army Futures Command brought together experts from the private sector to discuss new technologies and emerging trends.

Over a two-day symposium, the experts from academia and sports and technology companies weighed in on optimizing human performance by focusing on cognition among people with physically demanding jobs, using wearable technology or analog methods to encourage desired outcomes, making healthy choices, and examining the role of data in enabling better health, precision and resilience.

The VERTEX—Human Performance symposium was held Dec. 7–8 in Austin, Texas, and hosted by the Army Applications Laboratory, which was stood up in 2018 under Futures Command as an innovation unit to mine the commercial marketplace for ideas.

The exchange of ideas at the symposium fed into the command’s broader mission of transforming the Army for the future, including the development of concepts and solutions for soldiers’ peak performance.

“The Army recognizes we can learn a lot from what the commercial market is doing in the human performance space,” Lt. Gen. Thomas Todd, Army Futures Command’s deputy commanding general for acquisition and systems management, said in a statement.

Sessions on the first day were interspersed with networking opportunities and panel discussions with a focus on maximizing cognitive performance, including a deep dive into human factors and behaviors.

While technology is playing and will play an important role into the future, experts also discussed non-technological tools for cognitive performance such as breathing, mental hygiene, regulating pressure points, sleep hygiene and light discipline. Overcoming challenges can be met through mindfulness, meditation to silence the noise, hydration and healthy physical activity, they said.

On the second day, sessions were held on how to manage and optimize the human metabolism, making sense of the mountains of data captured through wearables, sensors and other human performance technology, and evidence-based artificial intelligence-driven assessments of the data collected.

“By starting a dialogue with experts in other market sectors, like law enforcement, professional athletics or even e-sports, we can envision how to use those technologies for our own purposes,” Todd said in the statement, adding that the event also “gives private sector businesses the opportunity to learn how best to work with the Army by understanding our needs, funding roadmap and acquisition processes.”