Image: U.S. Army photo by Spc. Chandler Coats, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
So far, Microsoft’s military hololens have made mostly negative headlines. But the US military is pleased with the results of a recent exercise.
After reports of technical issues and budget cuts, there’s good news for the military AR headset to change: During an operational demonstration with Stryker infantry fighting vehicles Aug. 24-25, the U.S. Army was happy with Microsoft’s AR headset.
During the final capture of a house in an urban scenario, the number of troops needed for such a mission had already decreased considerably, as the helmet allows troops to act more efficiently thanks to additional mission data available at any time. moment.
An operation of this magnitude would previously have required a greater number of company-sized personnel, Phillip Landan explained on the official US military web presence. In his role as deputy program manager, he manages the integration of ground combat products. This includes the “IVAS” (Integrated Visual Augmentation System) AR headset modified by Microsoft.
Advantages in urban combat
Recently, a platoon was also able to carry out such an operation, Landan said. However, at the final presentation in Washington State, the platoon and its five armored personnel carriers were accompanied by two to three infantry regiments and one to two combat teams.
Capacities have been expanded “significantly” in the current iteration of IVASexplains senior network engineer David Morris, Ph.D., of collaborative partner MITER Corporation.
During the exercise, he said, experiments were carried out mainly with the mobile and scalable MANET network: it sends orientation data to dismounted soldiers, improving communications with vehicles, “so that each know where the others are”.
The implementation is reminiscent of modern video games. The AR headset displays graphic overlays, mission data and messages in the field of view. Thanks to augmented reality, they can now access information that was previously only available at the command post, instead of unnecessarily staring at a wall in the way of the mission.
New on-vehicle cameras are designed to enhance 360-degree situational awareness, Morris said: “So instead of just having the gun camera and the relatively small front and rear cameras, we now have high end cameras all around the vehicle with day and night vision.
Soldiers can overlay video feeds on their helmets. This lets them know what is going on at all times on different sides of the tank. They can also call up a tactical map of the wider mission area. This includes friendly and enemy positions, navigation information and high resolution thermal and night vision.
“When all the doors and hatches on the Stryker are closed, I can see 360 degrees around my vehicle to check for IEDs, check where my other vehicles are and check their movement, and all of that has been a huge plus for us these last two. weeks,” said Sgt. 1st Class Kyle Williams, third platoon leader for Blackhorse Company. “It dramatically improves our ability to function.”
IVAS: from reservist to reinforcement?
In subsequent surveys of soldiers, the new IVAS features were well received, he said. Kyle Williams, for example, praised the better overview of his soldiers as visible icons:
“I can do route planning, I can do mission planning, I can post graphic overlays, I can literally navigate with turn-by-turn navigation, and I can send two-way messages to members of the peloton.”
The turn-by-turn navigation mentioned above refers to the ability of navigation systems to quickly indicate changes in direction or lane in the terrain.
Recently, there’s been a steady stream of bad news regarding Microsoft’s military Hololens: immature technology, especially screen weaknesses, has resulted in massive cuts to the project’s budget for the coming year.
Still, the US military is sticking with the project and has purchased an initial batch of the first shipment of up to 5,000 high-tech combat helmets worth a total of $373 million. The overall project has a potential budget of up to $22 billion.