At our most recent Gadgetoff, Jay Cohen, head of the Department of Homeland Security’s Science &
Technology Directorate promised to make me sick. Admiral Jay Cohen was formerly skipper of the nuclear submarine USS Hyman Rickover and recently headed the Office of Naval Research so, despite his avuncular style, is a man to be taken very seriously. Cohen brought along one of the new non-lethal devices DHS is developing: the Dazzler, a handheld LED incapacitator. Despite my entreaties to “Daze Me, Bro”, the good Under Secretary wouldn’t go so far as to make me puke but he did show us this light-saber strobe designed to nauseate.
The idea of using a flashlight-shaped object to incapacitate a suspect is hardly new to law enforcement. For decades, streetwise officers carried the brawny black Maglite (preferably the four D-celled aircraft aluminum version) to potentially bash subjects in the head. (It also doubles as a handy flashlight!) Perhaps there could be a more effective and humane way to detain a suspect than a nice knock in the noggin? That’s the idea behind the Dazzler. Designed by Intelligent Optical Systems in Torrance, CA, the Dazzler takes down subjects with a pulsating array of ultra-bright multicolored light emitting diodes. This flashlight-shaped device will not only temporarily blind and disorient a subject: it also makes ‘em sick for a while. Precisely why it temporarily scrambles brain functioning is not well understood but plenty of test subjects have become true believers.
There’s more here than flashing lights. A rangefinder determines the distance to the subject to optimize the color and pulses needed to disable. Now, scientists developing this non-lethal weapon are working to make it the Dazzler smaller and more portable than the prototype Undersecretary Cohen demonstrated. After decades in the Navy, Cohen joked he wanted us to experience his many years of sea sickness in just a few seconds. Always a gentleman (notwithstanding his new status as a government bureaucrat) he flashed it instead at the ceiling, away from the audience, so we could see the Dazzler without puking from it. (See video of the Gadgetoff demonstration here.)
Despite my bravado in wishing to be subjected to the Dazzler’s nauseating charms, I must confess that having recently been “Tased” has somewhat diminished by zeal for remaining a human guinea-pig. Dared to “try” the experience by our good friend Colin Angle at CES 2007
, I let the Taser folks wire me up, and with brother Mickey happily videotaping, was instantly knocked down and immobilized. Three seconds of Taser-zapping was
all I could take as every synapse and nerve-ending seemed individually targeted and overwhelmed. I remember rolling around in agony but Mickey says I was stiff as a board and could only curse uncontrollably on the floor. (You’ll be able to click here to see video of me whimpering during tasering when we post it soon.)
Thank you, Jay Cohen, for sharing the Dazzler without reducing any of us to a heap of nauseate on the floor. But, dear Admiral, may I recommend a good test subject? Colin Angle tells me he really needs to be dazed.