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The problems with the Army’s AR goggles

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The future of a military device called the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) is in jeopardy. It’s a headset based on Microsoft’s HoloLens that uses a camera and display to give soldiers more information about their surroundings. Additionally, it is designed to enhance the combat capabilities of individuals and squads by making data collected by military sensors readily available in the field. But tools are only useful if soldiers are willing to use them, and according to a report prepared for the Pentagon, actual infantrymen tasked with trying equipment out use headsets more than they use headsets. It is said that it is better to throw away .

This is the conclusion of a summary report prepared for the Department of Defense, which states that Nicholas Gertin, Director of Operations Tests and Evaluations (this position oversees all tests for the Department of Defense and specifically reports to the Secretary of Defense). To do). “Of those who experienced discomfort, more than 80% of him had symptoms within three hours of using a customized version of Microsoft’s HoloLens goggles,” the summary report said. bloomberg.

These symptoms included “headache, eye strain and nausea,” Bloomberg reports. In a battle that requires situational awareness, clear vision, and the ability to make clear and effective life-or-death decisions quickly, these afflictions render a soldier ineffective even when the enemy does not need to fire.

The HoloLens on which IVAS is based was not primarily designed as a military device, and it took years of work and internal opposition to adapt it to the IVAS headset. In February 2019, shortly after the deal was publicly announced, some of his Microsoft employees sent a letter To the company’s CEO who opposes turning HoloLens into an instrument of war.

“The application of HoloLens within the IVAS system is designed to help people kill. Take your soldiers further away from the realities of gambling and bloodshed. Pointed out by a letter writer.

It’s still possible that IVAS could become a functional battlefield tool, but existing public reports suggest that if IVAS turns the battlefield into a video game, it’s a game soldiers don’t want to play. .

Adapting technology from recreational augmented reality headsets to military use has always been difficult. In the years the Army has been experimenting with his IVAS, the technology’s limitations have quickly become apparent, but the tool’s promise is only beginning to come true.

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The Army’s report has not been made public, but other previous assessments that have been made public include skepticism that the program will deliver on its promises.Army’s IVAS released April 2022 An audit by the program’s Inspector General noted that the program failed to define a floor level at which user acceptance of technology met needs.

“Procuring IVAS without user approval wastes up to $21.88 billion of taxpayer funds building systems that soldiers do not want to use or use as intended. There is a possibility.” Declared audit.

The report emphasizes that it was not a lack of soldier interest that led to its conclusion, but a lack of defined acceptance thresholds. It was a problem that could only be remedied by doing so, and the audit notes that the Army had not yet done so at the time of publication.

[Related: Watch the impressive HoloLens 2 Apollo 11 demo that failed during Microsoft’s keynote]

Every year, the Government Accountability Office prepares a weapons systems evaluation for Congress.among them Report for June 2022, GAO said, “IVAS continues to face technical challenges regarding display quality and reliability.” The report continued, although his fourth iteration of the device improved the display, “most flaws were not fixed, and the feature set has yet to demonstrate its ability to serve as combat goggles.” I did.”

Augmented reality

The IVAS program is premised on employing the latest sensors, displays, and data integration to enhance the way soldiers understand their surroundings. 2021, Microsoft IVAS said it would “Let soldiers see through smoke and corners, use holographic imagery for training, and project 3D terrain maps into their field of view with the click of a button.”

To understand why the Army would be interested in such a device, it helps to consider its potential benefits. One of the unique possibilities of this technology is to not only project maps within the soldier’s field of view, but also inside moving vehicles without windows. This kind of awareness of the outside terrain, filmed and transmitted from the transport’s cameras, could help soldiers understand where to fight. When exiting the vehicle, knowing the terrain allows the soldier to take the fastest route to cover and improve combat effectiveness.

The IVAS was intended to work as a night vision as well, but with an 80 degree field of view, twice as wide as the typical 40 degrees of other night vision goggles. Other display features, such as a compass for navigation and the ability to illuminate friendly forces, provide the kind of combat intelligence management tools that generations of soldiers have come to expect from first-person shooters.

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Several features that enhance navigation and coordination work, according to a summary obtained by Bloomberg.

If instead of making soldiers feel uncomfortable when providing information, IVAS might be able to deliver on its promise if it could change the headset to make soldiers more aware. Otherwise, headsets may be limited to historical novelty, an augmented reality layer for unprepared warfare.

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