Saturday, May 03, 2014

A dumb gun is not a smart gun

There has been a minor brouhaha in the American media this week about the refusal for gunshops to sell the  Armatix “smart” gun.  These revolve around fears that the sale of this weapon will restrict consumer choice in other, non-adjacent states.

This is not surprising.  The tactic of making a product that nobody wants to buy, and them compelling its purchase through legislation is not new.  Nor is it unique to liberals; rather is practiced by all sides of politics on everything from health insurance to self-propelled artillery to NASA rockets. And this is where the smart gun falls down.

Compared to every other smart product to hit the market in the last ten years, the smart gun is really, really fucking stupid. It make no attempt at all to leverage the information revolution to its core utility, in the way that smart phones, smart glasses, smart cars, and smart everything else do.  So unsurprisingly, not even people who like guns want to but a smart gun.

It doesn't have to be that way.  There is no reason a well-designed actual smart gun can’t be so compelling, useful, and clever that everyone with even a remote interest in physics would want to have one. A gun with integrated display/user interface/ cameras/ standard hand-held computer sensors could to all sorts of amazing things not currently available to current weapons. 

Just off the top of my dome, these include:
  • Integrated tiltmeter/ compass/ gps system that shows you (on a map), where rounds are expected to fall when the gun is pointed into the air.
  • Breathalayzer interlocks.
  • Hunting and firearm regulation and helpful hints relevant to your GPS position.
  • High precision integrated camera/gunsight that records a pic every shot, automatically scores targets based on image analysis, uses image recognition to identify targets.
  • Digital map record of hunting sites, game seen, missed, taken, time spent.
  • Programmable trigger lockouts from image recognition to block unwanted targets, such as:
  • -children.
  • -birds and beasts not in season.
  • -cops.
  • -unsafe elevation (see above).
  • -people who have turned their back/ are retreating.
  • -recognized “do not shoot” faces.
  • -and any other targets where the shooter wants an extra layer of protection against accidents. 

There are all sorts of totally awesome things you could do with a computer-integrated, geospatially aware weapon.  And the fact that guns are exempt from consumer protection laws should only increase innovation in this area.  Done properly, a genuinely smart gun could make uncomputerized guns as obsolete as flip phones.

I don’t know who would make them, but perhaps a hugecomputer company in a gun-loving state desperate for a new product would be interested.


Chris Phoenix said...

One of those features would get people tragically killed.

"Hey, this gun has a do not shoot feature. Wanna see?"


...but since nothing is 100% failsafe...

It might save more lives than it cost, but even if it did, I'm not sure it would be worth it.

C W Magee said...

That applies to all safety interlocks, physical, electronic, and hardware.

C W Magee said...

Er, software.

Chris Phoenix said...

I agree. But most safety interlocks aren't
1) on a home appliance that people use impulsively even when it's really stupid to.
2) lethal if they fail.
3) advertised as a safety feature.
4) dependent on cutting-edge technology.

The combination of these factors just seems... bad.

Unknown said...

As the raging liberal who's also steeped in gun knowledge/experience (from my Father, no so interested myself) and digital hardware/software, I wonder if your post is serious.

Take the original M16 v. Kalashnikov. The M16 was the "smart rifle" of its day and failed miserably in the field. Guns need to be very robust; I don't see adding a bunch of digital hardware as practical. Just the added bulk, let alone weight, would be impractical, however tiny the circuits.

As for liberal health insurance "nobody wants," I encorage you to talk to the friend of mine, now a widow with two children, born with a congenital hip problem. For the first time in her life she can stop kowtowing to employers to keep her coverage for her -- and her children -- and cannot be denied because she was born damaged.

And you may know "nobody" wanted air bags or seat belts, or controls on water pollution; I'm old enough to remember what it was like then.

I do agree smart guns might be stupid, but not for the same reasons you do.

Probably the fact that cops -- who are more likely to get shot with their own sidearm than another gun, last time I checked -- have resisted smart guns tells you the technology isn't there yet.

Unknown said...

A story to ponder, I'm not taking a side either way.

My Step Dad, like many small town Southerns, kept several loaded handguns in the house, including two with chambered rounds (hollow point .357). He died in 1997; rather sudden. After his funeral Mom invited many people to the house; around 30 small children were allowed to play in the bedroom, watched by a sitter. At some point I thought of the guns and ran to the room. I found the two bedroom guns in low drawers, easily accessible to all the kids.

In his nearly 70 year life he'd never needed these for home defense. To me, that none of the kids managed to get ahold of one of them that day was a miracle; both were revolvers, just a hard trigger pull was all it would have taken.

C W Magee said...

Which would be better for society:
1. a digital music player that calls in when it is stolen?
2. a GUN that calls in when it is stolen?

If Obamacare is so great, then why is the President's approval rating so low?

The overall point of the piece stands. If you want people to buy something, give it features that actually appeal to a potential customer. Guns are often used in situations where geospacial information would be useful for analysis of the use. Why not imbed it? Image processing and recognition technology is growing at an enormous pace. Why not harness that?

The current trend in America is for more guns and fewer rules. The users don't seem to be getting any smarter, so maybe the guns should.