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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Special Operations Apps Promises Quick AO Camouflage

Tora Bora Mountains by Ben Sutherland
Just imagine taking a photo of a location with your Droid Smartphone and within minutes have the image converted to a perfect camouflage design for concealment within that area of operation.

At this point you can then take the pattern and have it directly printed on a swath of fabric, which can be cut to uniform specs and sewn into a uniform that can be worn instantly for any mission taking place within the focused AO.

This is the quick supply chain that Special Operations Apps is looking to bring to the military through its CamoScience™ and Direct-to-Garment printing technology. If this proves effective, a three camouflage family of patterns solution being proposed by the U.S. Army may seem limited in scope. The new applications  utilizing Smartphone technology along with digital inkjet printing, can provide endless camouflage options for very area specific uniforms. 

Upon reading this you may think that the future of large camouflage license fees for top designers is not looking too bright when a unit can just design their own uniform with a few buttons being pressed. However, there are some variables that can make this concept a bit problematic. For one, the CamoScience™ app requires a three step process including choosing one of twenty camouflage design templates, taking the photo, and editing reality features. 

Perhaps the twenty design patterns are great, but which one is going to best work for the area in which you are operating? When taking the photo are you choosing a specific point that is most representative of the area as a whole? And, when you are editing reality features, is your technique taking the best approach possible. Camouflage designers already take this approach in their designs. 

While, they may not be simplified to twenty base templates and all three steps may not take place on one device, can we really say this is a better process if the end result is created by some thumb technician taking "calculated" guesses as what looks good? It may turn out that an expert camouflage designer may be needed in the process anyway, and what if it is determined that a slight variation on one of the twenty templates turns out to be a better choice for the terrain in mind. Then we are just back to square one in finding a solution that simply doesn't fit with the technology.

Photo by Ravensbourne College
Direct-to-Garment sounds like a process that many camouflage designers would love. Not only can they quickly test out their product on fabric samples, but they can quickly test patterns to see if they can be replicated in real life application on uniform grade materials. Sometimes what looks great on paper turns to a mess on the fabric of choice, and requires major tweaking for it to work as intended. It can also be a quicker process for uniform production which can be used in the field for real world camouflage testing. 

Fielding a camouflage is always the true test for perfection, since proven concealment when in action will meet the needs of the end user. However, this may have its limitations as well since you may be able to take a photo of a focused terrain from afar, but a hot combat zone may not provide the adequate environment for a quick jaunt of field testing. Then again if you are quickly noticed by an enemy combatant, your testing may be completed quite swiftly. 

Twenty First Century innovations in camouflage design are very intriguing when discussed in promotional materials. We applaud Special Operation Apps and look forward to studying the viability of their products. The concepts are amazing and may just turn out to what we need for a different camouflage uniform on every corner of the Earth. Lets not get ahead of ourselves in thinking that any Tom, Dick, or Prince Henry will be able to design their own uniform with the click of a button, a swath of NYCO, and a Lexmark printer. Don't forget they will need to have a high quality sweatshop at hand as well for this quick customized tailoring. After all, your momma certainly didn't teach you to be a seamstress.

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