Although Microsoft has successfully adapted its HoloLens for the military, it seems something has gone wrong in the recent months. When Joe Biden signed the $1.75 trillion government funding bill, it became clear that the Army’s request for another batch of the Microsoft headsets had been denied.
Why? Has the whole idea been scrapped? What’s going on?
Augmented Reality Warfare
HoloLens and the military are not an unusual pairing by any means, nor is it unexpected. Microsoft Inc. and the U.S. army have been making deals since 2018 – this much has been made public. The corporation reworked its “civilian” HoloLens headset into Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) suited for the battlefield. It brought Microsoft a contract that could be worth the whopping $21.8 billion.
According to the news, IVAS’ primary purpose is displaying data such as low-light vision, mission data, location map, and other parameters. The goal is to increase situational awareness of a soldier, in transit or dismounted. Of course, a wearable like that is also going to be very useful for training and simulation…
Provided it makes the cut.
In October 2022, a leaked report caused quite a stir describing multiple shortcomings of the updated HoloLens as field tested by thousands of U.S. soldiers over the course of (at least) two years. According to the report, testers experienced nausea and headaches in addition to eye strain, and the symptoms persisted for hours. The glowing display was visible enough from outside that it could have “gotten us killed” in real life combat.
And so the Congress has ostensibly reacted to these findings. When the Army requested $400 million to buy 6,900 modified HoloLens headsets from Microsoft in 2023, the answer was “no”.
The Future of IVAS
Despite the difficulties and “low acceptance”, the HoloLens military tests are going to continue. Instead of the above-mentioned $400 million, the Congress approved $40 million to spend on the 1.2 version of the headset. And shortly before that, $125 million were allocated to spend on fixing the old model’s weak spots.
The new HoloLens for the Army promises an updated form factor (less of a helmet and more of a goggles), presumably to make the device less conspicuous. A range of improvements to the display aim to remove the negative symptoms experienced by the wearer. There is even talk about integrating IVAS to the Bradley platform, making the soldier retain their connection to the vehicle upon dismount and see what the Bradley sensors see when inside the car.
One thing is clear: the military needs wearable AR goggles. All the data gathered by sensors has to be delivered to the unit on site as efficiently as possible. The old-timey radios no longer suffice. We’re looking at yet another cutting edge technology entering the military.
This article has been brought to you by Senstone Inc. If you want to learn about wearable technology and its impact, visit our homepage or follow us on social media. Your productivity is our mission.