AI Will Tell Future Medics Who Lives and Dies on the Battlefield

January 24 

SAN ANTONIO—In the warzones of the future, medics touching down amid heavy battlefield casualties will know who to treat first, how to approach every injury, and even who is most likely to live or die — all before looking at a single wounded soldier. 

That’s the vision of Col. (and Dr.) Jerome Buller, who leads the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research. 

Buller says biometric data gleaned from soldier-borne sensors, combined with in-depth medical and training data and augmented reality lenses, will help medics in combat evaluate the battlefield and everyone in it from a safe distance. They will make their most important decisions before even seeing their patients.

“Imagine that [the hypothetical future] medic is able to scan the battlefield and instead of seeing rubble, he’s seeing red or green dots, or amber dots, and he knows where to apply resources or not,” Buller said during the Defense One and NextGov Genius Machines event here on Wednesday. 

“Let’s say you and your fellow soldier have the same injury. Looks the same, pools of blood are the same. You may compensate [as in, survive injury] far better than she can, or vice versa. And if I only have two packets of blood, who do I give it to? So this technology will help us to far better use these really scarce resources,” he said. 

That’s a big change from the way battlefield field medicine is performed now, relying heavily on medics’ intuition. “You have to literally determine which ones are going to live and die, so having some type of automated capability from a cognitive perspective to say, ‘Yep, you know they are red, I’m going to go to the next one,’ from a psychological perspective — I think it would have a huge impact on a positive note than just the medic making that call.”