8th Mar, 2010

This is a clarification (reimage) of the technologies found in power armour Autosense used by Space Marines in 40K.  The idea is to ramp up he technology yet remove the tech feel and plunge the marine into spiritual relationship with his armour - one that makes sense to our modern mind set - and to show off the ethos and power of archaeotech. At the same time I wanted to build in some wriggle room that accounts for all the descriptions of Autosense found in Black Library novels and codex colour text; from primitive HUD to the guiding hand of the machine spirit.

Autosense is a device that collects information via artificial sensors, processes and filters that information, and then feeds it directly into the mind of the wearer. This completely bypasses the wearer's natural senses. A helmet with Autosense does not have eye slits to look through, holes to let sound into the ear, it is completely (hermetically) sealed as part of life-support. Instead the helmet has artificial sensors mounted outside the armour.

Artificial sensor array: The Autosense make use of several highly advanced artificial sensors.

  • The core visual sensor is wide spectrum, with particular focus on the THz wavelengths know as T-Lux. This band of light is in between infra-red and microwaves and has characteristics of both. In application is has the effect of being full on heat vision, but is also has a penetrating effect, so heat emanating from inner layers are also clearly seen. This gives a passive 'x-ray' effect able to penetrate clothing (but not metal objects), and will expose hidden weapons. It will also expose hidden snipers, and other hot objects much as a thermal camera. Lazgun blasts can be traced back to origin.
  • The audio system is very sensitive, with Doppler effect processing for excellent sound placement in 3D space.  It allows the system to place all noises within the environment accurately, and range them, including sniper locations (of the sniper's weapon emits noise). It is so precise that it can function as a form echolocation.
  • Smell is about as acute as a dog's nose, and combined with molecule recognition the Autosense can detect the presence of many substances and direct the marine to them (note: A Space Wolf's nose is more sensitive)
  • Taste is not catered for.
  • Touch - optional: the suit is covered with micro-hairs (similar in concept to a crab suing hairs to feel through it's carapace) this allows the suit to feeling what is touching the surface of the armour, and internal strain gages allow the feeling over pressure. A marine can even feel the wind on his armour.

Artificial Instincts: The Autosense collects a vast amount of information through the artificial sensors, far too much for a human mind (even a marines!) to process all at once, so the Autosense has to filter and process this information into a feed that a human can absorb. In order to do this, and make the most of the sensory information collected, the Autosense utilizes cortex technology. This cortex technology is a dedicated machine sub-brain that is able to recognise threats by analysing the vast stream of incoming data, and passes these perceptions on to the marine as 'instincts'. It is, in effect, a technologically enabled 'sixth-sense'. These instincts alert the marine to threats they can not usually see, and are prioritised in relation to the marine's own instincts. If the marine takes notice of these artificial instincts and focuses in on a threat, the Autosense will instantly enhance the image to make it clear what the threat is.

This instinct feed is often interpreted as a 'spirit guide' and the Autosense plays into this perception. This guiding 'spirit' is the 'machine spirit' of the armour. It's not the actual technology or AI, it's the marine's perception of their interaction with the Autosense and the feeling of presence.

In action: The eye sensors 'see' in a much wider spectrum of light than a human, including infra-red, but the marine does not. To the marine they see what a human normally sees on a well light day. No matter what the actual environmental light levels are, the marine's lux levels do not change. Their vision is always clear. Their hearing is normalised, with comm voices coming through clear as a bell even when next to explosions.

No external stimulus can disorientate the marine. Example: a sudden bright flash of light, that would blind a human, can be instantly filtered and levelled as to be harmless. Loud noises and explosions are instantly deadened. Flashbang (stun) grenades have no effect at all.

While the marine may not directly use the full range of the artificial sensors, the Autosense does. The Autosense would easily see the sniper hiding via infra-red, or by some other means (if the sniper has a full stealth suit), and pass this information to the marine as an instinct. If the marine then focuses in on this artificially induced instinct the Autosense can alter the image to show the threat. The imagine altering can include HUD like overlays.

Variation: The Autosense can display of information in various modes. While the instinct feed is the most common mode in use, the Autosense can add in images enhancements, overlays (HUD), and audio alerts to the sensory feed. The classic 'HUD' effect is often used by less experienced wearers until they adjust (sync) to their Autosense's machine spirit. The HUD can display things like a cross-hairs for shooting, target outlines, and with a thought: accurate ammo counts. More experienced users who are fully synced with their machines spirit 'just know' this information and do not have to see it.

Communion: The Autosense includes a full menu system, usually accessed when out of fire-fights and close combat, and is imprinted directly into the mind's eye of the marine. By imagining the machine spirit the marine can access a wealth of 'prophetic' information, this is know as 'communion', showing the conclusions and tactical analysis of the warzone; possible outcomes and dangers, projected wins and looses of various armies in action, maps and logistics. Much of this information is relayed as daydream, other parts are signs and numbers. It all makes sense to the marine, and reading the information via communion is an art.

Integration: In all aspects the suit's integration with the marine's own awareness virtually seamless. In a given situation it's hard to tell if an instinct was the marine's own natural instincts or and enhancement, or a synergy of the two. From the marine's point of view, these artificial instincts feel like a presence and are often interpreted as a 'spirit'. The Autosense connects to the lower 'reptile' brain, and provokes reflex actions if needed. Often a marine may think they are 'lucky', 'blessed', or that 'someone is watching over them'.

Persistence of Spirit: A suit of power armour is recycled by the Chapter if recovered from the battlefield. A new marine will receive the armour when award 'battle-brother' rank. This can give rise to an unusual effect of 'persistence'. The previous wearer will have fully synced with the Autosense of the suit, and in synergy and operation over centuries, would become one with the Autosense. Removing the marine from the system leaves a huge void of data and expected feedback from the Autosense, which will then be replaced with the mind of the new marine. The Autosense has to relearn and adapt it's a new wearer.

It is during the syncing phase that the presence of the previous wearer can be felt by the marine, and this may overly enhance compatible areas of their psyche and downplay others to the point it can affect behaviour. Some suits are incompatible with a wearer - a marine that is highly individual may have to fight the will of the machine spirit to over-imprint their will and aims if they differs from the standard chapter ethos and mindset. At other times a suit may take to a wearer like an old glove. The more wearers the suit has had, the greater it's understanding, how it should process information, what to focuses in on first when syncing, the important information the marine really needs.

New Autosense: With a fresh install of an Autosense (bio-computer), only the core functions of normalisation of stimulus are online, and the marine will feel no presence at first, until the Autosense learns the full parameters of a marine and fully synchronises. When it's fully synced it's instinct feed can be very weak. In time the Autosense's influence ramps up, but often the marine does not realise that some of the hard won battle instinct are not all their own - as the Autosense grows with them. Like anything gradual, it simply does not notice*.  After a decade the marine has full mastery of the Autosense, and they may become aware of a presence when in battle. Most Chapters place marines who are learning to use their Autosense in Devastator squads.

  • marine who has full mastery of their Autosense would notice if they put on another suit of armour - but that is rare (replacement of a damaged Autosense is the most likely event where a marine would experience this).

Space Wolves: This concept may also be used as an explanation as to why the Space Wolves may not like this type of instinct enhancement Autosense, as it messes with their own instincts?

This article has been added to Space Marine Tactical Gear

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