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TrackingPoint's sensor-packed smart gun redefines the term 'point and shoot'

Alex Wawro | Aug. 1, 2013
TrackingPoint's Linux-powered hunting rifle employs cutting-edge tracking technology to make anyone an excellent marksman.

The PGF is a high-powered rifle that runs Linux and broadcasts its own Wi-Fi signal

Jason Schauble is on a mission to disrupt the firearms market with the same sensor technology that powers your smartphone. Using components similar to what you'd find inside common mobile devices, Schauble and his team are building a "smart rifle" that would empower even first-time shooters to hit a bull's-eye from 3100 yards away—farther than any confirmed shot with a small-arms weapon.

It's all part of Schauble's "Super Gun" initiative, a bombastic title for a project that focuses more on pushing the boundaries of ballistic science than on designing a superaccurate hunting rifle for people buy at Wal-Mart.

Schauble is a former U.S. Marine and CEO of TrackingPoint. If that name sounds familiar, it's probably because we bumped into TrackingPoint during CES 2013. Schauble was there showcasing his Precision Guided Firearms, or PGFs—three futuristic hunting rifles sporting CPUs, Wi-Fi radios, gyroscopes, and other components that usually show up on the spec sheets of Samsung and Apple.

At upwards of $22,000 a pop the PGF isn't (currently) mass-market technology, but we nonetheless have a rifle that can automagically nail a kill shot at a mile and a half away. No training required.

The takeaway is clear: The advent of cheap, powerful mobile components is changing everything from watches to weaponry. The same gyroscopes and accelerometers that permit you to play Angry Birds enable the PGF's onboard Linux computers to calculate the perfect firing angle required to hit a seemingly impossible target.

It's literally point-and-shoot

According to Schauble, an average shooter equipped with a dumb rifle can reliably hit targets at 250 yards on a firing range. Accuracy at 1000 yards or more is typically beyond the capability of anyone but an expert marksman—unless they're using a smart rifle like TrackingPoint's XS1 PGF. The largest PGF that TrackingPoint currently makes, the XS1 requires $20,000 worth of high-tech optics and tracking technology.

Here's how it works: You shoulder the rifle and look through the scope, which is actually a high-contrast 640 by 480 OLED display that plays streaming video from a 14.6-megapixel CMOS sensor mounted on the front of the gun. It's sort of like having a digital camera with a 110m telephoto lens strapped to the barrel—one that streams video at 54 frames per second and is aided by image-processing software. Through the scope, you see a head-up displaypacked with visual data, including crosshairs for centering your target.

"The sensors in our rifles are really quite similar to the image sensor in your iPhone," says John Lupher, CTO and cofounder of TrackingPoint. "Color correction, magnification, enhanced contrast—we do a lot of image processing to help hunters see their targets more clearly."


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