Envisioning Defense Technology

Robotics and AI enabling autonomous defense.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no longer mere science fiction.
The personal assistants in our phones are just the tip of the iceberg. AI systems are getting more powerful everyday; they can already read, hear, talk, translate, understand feelings and incredibly, learn and teach themselves. Advances in robotics are giving a physical, functioning structure to these new, artificial minds - not only connecting them with other machines, but also amplifying the abilities and extending the limits of the human body.

From healthcare to infrastructure, AI and robotics are quietly, yet systematically permeating every aspect of life. And national security absolutely cannot and will not be left behind.



Technology is everything we create

In this study, we mapped and analyzed dozens of emerging technologies that incorporate Artificial Intelligence and robotics into defense applications. Through our research, we discovered that these applications have the indisputable potential to change future battlefields - whether on the ground, in the air, out to sea or in cyberspace - while generating new paradigms and remodeling the current concept of defense.

Our aim is to raise awareness, open a dialogue and generate insight about the future of defense.



Areas of Interest

The research is organized in six collections of related technologies.

The miniaturization movement combined with cheaper and more accurate sensors are leading to ubiquitous computing, which is gradually making its way into the human body. Augmentations that rely on applications of Artificial Intelligence have the potential to replace lost limbs and simultaneously enhance the physical and cognitive abilities of soldiers while blurring the line between machine and human.

Robots powered by Artificial Intelligence are taking most of the hard labor and brute force away from humans. Taking the shape of animals, humanoids or vehicles, these systems work to resupply, provide maintenance and surveillance and improve overall logistics. Furthermore, these intelligent systems liberate manpower to focus on highly skilled activities while preserving the physical condition of soldiers, ensuring more successful missions.

Using machine vision and Artificial Intelligence, a new breed of technologies are turning thoughts and emotions into something measurable that can be tracked and hacked. By analyzing human reactions in real time, they can be used to treat mental disorders or even enhance conversational skills, thus reducing unnecessary emotional damage and enhancing persuasive capabilities

New advancements in Artificial Intelligence are becoming increasingly important in developing complex simulations and predictions. These insights could help governments and armed forces (re)evaluate strategies and tactics. User-friendly interfaces, robotics and wearables are enabling soldiers on the ground to assess the environment in real-time in order to make more informed decisions.

A near-infinite amount of data is available by using cloud-connecting devices to generate insights for better management of everything from national infrastructure to housework. However, this migration towards the cloud might also make these systems more vulnerable to attacks. Fluid cooperation between learning algorithms and human expertise can begin to defensively detect, prioritize, protect against and manage threats. From an active offensive perspective, they can be used to infiltrate and hijack systems, disrupt enemy infrastructure or gain access to intel.

Artificial Intelligence is enabling military robots to enter the battlefield to interact with human soldiers with the potential to replace the soldiers for specific tasks. These vehicles and drones can act as one synched unit, in the form of swarms, in order to preserve expensive equipment and potentially diminish the number of casualties. Fully autonomous military robots, with the ability to make life-or-death decisions, are raising important ethical concerns while challenging the fundamentals of human conflict.



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Technology changes at an accelerating pace. Understanding how it evolves requires new frameworks and tools. We create tools for documenting and tracking emerging technology. In a world where technology increasingly affects society, we aim to show what's ahead.

The result is a highly interactive visualization tool, designed to convey complex data in a meaningful way.

  • 70+ technologies
    Descriptions, images and illustrations

  • Readiness & impact level

  • 100+ related attachments
    Sources and further reading




In a sense, every technology begins as an idea. Some spring from academic insights, some generated in R&D projects, while others can be found in the pages of science fiction. Ideas are found anywhere from sketchbooks to spec-sheets. Technology draws from the public imagination before becoming a reality.

Some of these ideas are further developed into concepts, beginning an experimental life of increased application. Some concepts become prototypes, tested at scale. Some prototypes eventually become products, bringing availability to the public.

A technology can take anywhere from a year to a decade to shift phase. Some develop slowly (think biotech and nanotech) while other move rapidly (think IT and mobile). Some are greatly affected by factors like regulation, while others move swiftly under the radar.

Regardless of speed, technologies progress through each phase in order. Most technologies never reach the product phase, but they invariably begin as ideas. Occasionally, organizations developing the technology fail to keep it a viable business (think Concorde) while the technology remains alive, eventually returning as a new business (see boom.aero).

Envisioning employs crowdsourcing to devise a virtual yardstick that measures the invisible line between an idea and its manifestation as a product.




Envisioning Team




DEFTECH (DEfence Future TECHnologies) is part of the Technology
Foresight research program at armasuisse Science & Technology in
collaboration with Envisioning.  Read more about the Technology Foresignt research program. The project was unveiled at the Exponential Technologies Conference 2016 in Thun on 9 November.