Michal Mor and Shir Ahuvia joke about how army officials are always slightly stunned when they meet them for the first time — two knowledgeable women coming to sell them an artificial intelligence-based shooting device that makes rifles smart, more accurate and deadlier.
“It once happened that after presenting our technology, a senior engineer asked me: How do you know all of this? Is your father a rocket maker?” Mor, the CEO of the startup Smart Shooter, said with a laugh.
“It is very hard to break stigmas,” she said in a Zoom interview with The Times of Israel, but she and Ahuvia, VP Product at the firm, are doing it slowly and relentlessly, she said. “People who get to know us don’t question our abilities anymore.”
Mor co-founded the firm, based in Kibbutz Yagur in Israel, in 2011 with Avshalom Ehrlich, its CTO.
Mor has an MSC in Industrial Psychology and Human Factors Engineering from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. She worked for Israel’s arms manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. as a team leader for R&D groups in the missile division. After that, she led the product management team at printing industry company Press-sense.
Elrich, Mor’s co-founder in Smart Shooter, has a BSc in Computer Sciences and a master’s in Cognitive Psychology and Human Factors Engineering from the University of Haifa. He worked at Rafael as a human factor engineer and then at Press-sense and electric car maker Better Place before co-founding the smart-rifle startup.
The two decided it was time to bring technology to the traditionally low-tech rifle used by infantry soldiers, to increase its ability to hit its targets at the first shot, in light of Israel’s wars in Lebanon in 2006 and in the Gaza Strip over the years.
“It could have been my husband or the son of my friend fighting that war,” said Mor.
“Infantry units are those least backed by technology,” she said. “We have brought technology to this world of metal.”
Surgical precision can save lives on both sides, she noted. Performance and accuracy decrease in the midst of battle, endangering solders’ lives.
“If you miss that first shot and hit the wrong person, hell breaks loose,” she said.
The firm’s technology gives sniper abilities to all soldiers by making their rifles both smart and connected: The entire platoon and command and control centers can see what the soldiers are seeing via the scope in day and night operations.
“There should never be a situation of a soldier alone in an alley,” Mor said.
The product, called the SMASH Fire Control System, is equipped with a camera, electro-optics, computer vision technologies, real-time embedded software, and image processing algorithms. It gets fitted on the barrel of any standard assault rifle.
The soldier looks through an optical scope and decides who the target is and when to shoot, but it is the system that locks on the target, tracks the target’s movements, and, using computer-aided impact prediction processing, synchronizes the shot release.
The target can be static or moving, and the system ensures one shot-one hit capabilities at ranges of up to 300 meters (985 feet), Mor said.
US Army figures indicate that the probability of a hit under stress is under 20 percent at 200 meters and 10 percent at 300 meters. With the SMASH fire Control Systems, soldiers experiencing the system for the first time reached 80% hit probability, she said.
A related system, the SMASH 2000, can be used to target drones or other airborne targets, and thus are suited for border security and the protection of army bases and strategic facilities.
It takes just a few minutes to train soldiers to use the system, Mor said, as opposed to three weeks of training to use a regular rifle.
“It is like we are inventing the smartphone for the army world,” she said. “Ours is a platform that will change the whole mindset of how things should be.”
The systems are already being used by the IDF and the US Special forces, and in December the firm said that it got a contract from the Indian Ministry of Defense to supply its SMASH systems to the Indian Navy. The US forces use the technology mainly to bring down drones, she said. “They bought hundreds of our units.”
Armies, explained Mor, are very conservative institutions, so “we have to educate the market. Soldiers don’t decide, armies decide.”
The company has raised millions of dollars in three funding rounds, from a mix of private and institutional investors, Mor said.
Smart Shooter has a US subsidiary in Maryland and an office in Germany.