Microsoft has been working with the US Department of Defense on augmented reality systems for military use, based on HoloLens 2, but rebuilt into an Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS). The program has not been without controversy, as a Business Insider post reported that the upwards of $22 billion contract was on hold and in peril due to performance issues.
However last week the Army held a 2 day demonstration event at Joint Base Lewis McChord in western Washington, showing off “communications and visual augmentation technology integrated into U.S. Army Strykers” as well as for individual combat gear for soldiers assigned to the 8 wheeled armored fighting vehicles.
According to a post at the Defence Blog, the IVAS’ capabilities have been “significantly expanded in the last iteration,” quoting David Morris, lead network engineer for MITRE Corporation’s Army Platforms Division:
“The major new technologies we’re experimenting with today are the Tactical Scalable MANET waveform, which is bringing data down to the forward tactical edge to the dismounted Soldiers and to the vehicles, and connecting those systems together so that everybody has awareness of where the others are,” Morris said. “You can send messages, lay down graphic overlays, mission data, et cetera, so that you’ve got better capability that previously was only available up at the command post.”
The system includes high quality cameras integrated into the Strykers and linked with the IVAS devices:
“… instead of just having the gun camera and the relatively small forward and reverse cameras, now we’ve got high-end cameras all the way around the vehicle with both day and night vision. The Soldiers wearing the new IVAS technology are able to use those cameras and access them while they’re en route to mission. Instead of staring at a blank steel wall, they can keep up with what’s going on around the vehicle. They can also switch to a tactical map mode so they can see what’s going on around their broader mission area.”
The demonstration culminated with a simulated urban raid mission, one that previously would have been conducted with a much larger force, but the newly expanded IVAS devices made using a five Stryker vehicle operation possible.
According to feedback surveys conducted after the operations, reaction was generally well-received by the soldiers participating in the demo, saying “It greatly enhances our ability to operate.”