The News Comes After Years of Testing and Feedback between the US Army and Microsoft
Microsoft’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), a bespoke military-grade mixed reality (MR) headset, is set to enter service in September, the company announced in a blog post on Tuesday.
The IVAS headset, based on Microsoft’s HoloLens technologies, has been tested and developed for roughly two years to meet requirements from military use specifications and standards.
According to Master Sgt Marc Krugh, Senior Enlisted Advisor to the IVAS project, the process was “really iterative.”
He said in the blog post:
“Using the prototyping process, we were able to find out what works and what doesn’t work. Had we not received feedback from soldiers, we might have done the wrong thing and developed in the wrong direction. If a soldier wanted to put his or her cheek on the butt of their weapon, if there were sensors on the bottom of the headset, they wouldn’t be able to do that”
The advanced headset would “save lives”, Sgt Krugh said, adding the main focus of the project was to bring “our men and women in arms back home.”
Microsoft explained soldiers had tested the headset at Fort Pickett, Virginia over the last two years, with further trials in Alaska and Puerto Rico to determine performance in extreme weather conditions.
Over 80,000 hours of feedback had been collected on the new headsets, Microsoft added.
The MR headsets include thermal imaging, integrated global positioning systems (GPS), night vision, and others, allowing soldiers optimal awareness of surroundings while in combat missions.
Soldiers can also determine surroundings with holographic projections in the visor detailling maps, friendly forces, enemies, and others, according to Microsoft.
Additional benefits include weapon sight pairing, allowing soldiers to see around corners using their firearm’s sight, as well as communication between soldier headsets.
David Marra, Microsoft’s IVAS Programme Director, said:
“Think about giving the soldier instantaneous situational awareness, not only of their surroundings, but also of the proximity of mission-critical people, places and things. This will have a profound impact on soldier safety and a marked reduction in friendly fire and other types of incidents”
The news comes as Microsoft aims to produce roughly 120,000 headsets after striking a major contract with the US Army worth up to $21.88 billion USD over 10 years time, XR Today reported in early April.
A representative of Northrop Grumman revealed the aerospace and defence firm’s HIDDEN project at the VR/AR Summit last week, which integrates similar HoloLens technologies to provide soldiers with thermal imaging, topographical scanning of battlefields, and other capabilities while in combat.