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Taser goes high-tech with a "wireless" bullet

By - Source: Tom's Hardware | B 0 comment

Chicago (IL) - Taser goes new ways with a non-lethal bullet equipped with a microprocessor and battery that deliver an electrical charge via electrodes to incapacitate criminals.

Rick Smith and Tom Smith, founders of Taser, weren’t exactly modest when they unveiled their latest product at the 2007 Taser Conference in Chicago. They call the "XREP" a "reinvention" of the traditional bullet.

From the outside, the XREP resembles the look of a regular 12-gauge shotgun round. From the inside however, the device is expected to offer new and more efficient ways for law enforcement officers to engage criminals. Encased in epoxy, the XREP basically represents a self-contained Taser gun with a range of 100 yards.

When shot from a regular shotgun, the shell first deploys torsion spring fins to put the device in a rotating motion for flight stability. The XREP is nose-heavy, with the battery installed at the front, which increases the precision of the flight path as well. When the high-tech bullet hits its target, frontal electrodes will penetrate the skin and cause a "certain amount of pain," Taser representatives said. At the same time, the back part of the XREP will detach and hang on to the nose unit via copper wires that are about 3ft in length. The main shell then extends multiple spiked electrodes which aim to create another skin contact on a lower part of the body.

The initial impact of the shell will not cause as much pain as a traditional non-lethal bean bags, as the whole device weighs only 14 grams. Its purpose, however, is to create enough pain to cause a criminal to reach for the device and try to remove it. In that case, additional electrodes placed on the back of the nose assembly will attach to one or more fingers and create a more extensive circuit that reaches from the hand through the arm, the upper body to location of impact. The copper wire is "booby trapped" and conductive as well. According to Taser officials, the electrical charge will "lock down the hand" and make it impossible for a criminal to let go of the wire.

Taser declined to comment on the technical details of the microprocessor. But the company mentioned that it is an off-the-shelf CPU with a size that is "smaller than a dime". The task of the processor is to check 22 times per second where circuits have been created and deliver the electrical charge to those locations. The battery is powerful enough to supply power "for several minutes," we were told, but it releases the charge after 20 seconds by default - which gives a police officer 20 seconds to approach and arrest a target.

Max Nerheim, vice president of research and development at Taser, conceded that the XREP won’t work 100% of the time, as it requires either the electrodes of the body shell to penetrate skin or the target to reach for the device in order to work efficiently. However, "once that happens," explained spokesperson Stephen Tuttle, "we own you." And since the XREP can be fired from a regular 7-round shotgun, police officers will have seven chances to incapacitate a criminal.

The XREP is scheduled to be available sometime in 2008. The price for each device will be $99.

Taser also showed off some other new Taser devices, including a pink, blue, silver or black cellphone-sized Taser gun for women, which will retail for around $300. The new "C2" will require activation (back ground check) and users will be registered. If the gun is fired, the original owner can be determined through a an electronic "business card" that is stored in the device. The reach of the C2 is about 25 ft and the electrical charge is applied for 30 seconds.

Taser also showed a prototype of a robot carrying a Taser gun. The device, developed in cooperation with iRobot, is based on the "PackBot", which is used especially in military applications. Also new is a "remote firing station" which contains 6 tasers with a reach of 25 ft. One unit covers an angle of 23 degrees, with four units attached to eachother covering 90 degrees and 8 units adding up to 180 degrees. The devices, scheduled for a 2007 release, can also be daisy-chained to cover entire areas with taser units.

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