(Updated 07/09/2022) Despite a year-long delay in deploying 12,000 Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) headsets based on Microsoft’s Hololens 2 technology, the US Army has guaranteed that some of its soldiers will get to try the futuristic goggles by the end of September 2022.
After completed field tests, impressive results were received and are now slated for delivery to soldiers across the US.
Courtney Bacon, a spokeswoman for Program Executive Office Soldier, said that the IVAS is “still on track and is expected to undergo more testing in May this year (2022).”
Last year in April of 2021, Microsoft received a contract worth $21.9 billion to provide the United States Army with modified Microsoft HoloLens 2 augmented reality glasses. The order had the goal of beginning deliveries in 2022, however the project has since had some issues delaying its launch from initial field tests.
Now, in September 2022, after further completed tests, Assistant Secretary for Acquisition Douglas Bush clears “the Army to begin accepting” the customized HoloLens 2 headsets as the results of its impact are promising.
Image Source: CNBC
The IVAS headset will provide the US Army with a brand new way to see the battlefield. The IVAS will not only provide the soldiers with what a place or situation looks like before they get there, but also receive workflow instructions as well allow for better communication between soldiers and teams.
Further, the AR headset would feature high-resolution night vision and thermal heat capabilities, along with facial recognition software and on-the-spot language translation.
The goggles are also treated with an anti-fog coating that is held up in 95 degrees fahrenheit and 100% humid weather conditions.
According to Jessica Maxwell, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon’s Operational Test and Evaluation office told Bloomberg the heads-up display was found to have “not yet demonstrated the capability to serve as a fighting goggle.” She further added, “The Army and Microsoft, who are developing the goggles, need to improve display quality and reliability.”
Program Executive Officer Soldier Director of Public Affairs David Patterson said in October that the Army has opted to push back the fielding date to later next year and that it was “completely committed” to its cooperation with Microsoft.
His statement says, “The Army intends to continue developing and fielding this revolutionary, first-of-its-kind technology in FY22.”
Despite the to-and-fro, the headset was tested by the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. As per one of the sergeants, the headset saves time by cutting out the need to look at the compass or printed map because the compass is incorporated inside the headset.
Through a series of presentations last year in December of 2021, IVAS technical director, Jason Regnier detailed specifics of the IVAS’ capabilities and suggested plans for use in combat and training.
According to Regnier’s slides, the IVAS functions similar to heads-up display (HUD) found in first-person shooter games like Battlefield and Call of Duty. This can help soldiers to see minimaps, position of enemy soldiers and objective markers.
As per Army Sgt. John Martin, who tested out the headset in February 2021, the headset has various uses, from land navigation training to rapid target acquisition to mission exercises.
Further, the IVAS can be used for thermal imaging. Currently, binocular night vision goggles emit a dark green colour that is visible to the enemy. However, AR-enabled IVAS technology reveals people in the dark without emitting any glowing light.
The US Army started collecting real-world feedback from soldiers in 2021, assessing the impact a modified Microsoft HoloLens 2 would have on the efficiency of American soldiers.
After the field tests showed promising results, the technology has been approved for the US Army and will begin to receive the initial batch of augmented reality headsets. It will be interesting to see if other military institutions will adopt a similar path.
Jakob Pii is Writer at VR Expert and currently lives in the UK. He started his career in VR gaming in 2015 and has stayed in XR since, from exposure therapy in VR to 360-degree video documentaries. He is fascinated by how emerging technologies change how we live, play and work.