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US Navy will use Xbox controllers to steer submarine periscopes

The controllers will replace a clunky and expensive joystick.
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Mat Smith/Engadget

The Pentagon might have to buy Xbox controllers en masse in the future if the military ends up using them to control its laser weapons and other equipment. In fact, the US Navy will begin stocking its modernized Virginia-class submarines with them, starting with the USS Colorado that's expected to be commissioned in November. Sailors aboard the high-tech submarine will use the Xbox controller to maneuver its periscope. See, unlike periscopes in movies, wherein a single person has to peer through an eyepiece, the high-tech version of the instrument uses high-resolution cameras and displays images on big screens.

Sounds cool, right? Problem was, the joystick and the control panel Lockheed Martin developed to steer it cost around $38,000. Plus, the joystick was heavy and clunk, and it takes hours to train a sailor to use it. When the military contractor tested the Xbox controller as a replacement, sailors were able to figure out controls on their own within a few minutes. Considering each controller will only set the Navy back $30, scrapping the pricey specialized joystick and panel was a no-brainer.

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