Microsoft won a $480 million contract, earlier this week, to develop and supply prototypes for augmented reality systems, for use in combat and military training for the US army.
The project ‘Integrated Visual Augmentation system’ (IVAS) (formerly identified as Heads Up Display (HUD) 3.0) aims to rapidly develop, test and manufacture a single platform for soldiers to fight, rehearse, and train. It will also offer increased lethality, Mobility, and Situational Awareness. The system would also provide remote viewing of weapon sights to enable low risk, rapid target acquisition, and will integrate both thermal and night vision cameras. Moreover, it will also be capable of tracking a soldier’s heart and breathing rates along with detecting concussions. This contract will have the military ordering an initial run of 2,550 prototypes, along with them buying more than 100,000 of these devices.
As per the FBO (Federal Business Opportunities), Close Combat Force goes through the highest casualty rate in combat. Current and future battles are going to be fought in urban and subterranean environments where the current capabilities are not sufficient. IVAS will efficiently address this issue by providing increased sets and repetitions in complex environments that make use of its STESquad Capability integrated with HUD 3.0. “Soldier lethality will be vastly improved through cognitive training and advanced sensors, enabling squads to be first to detect, decide, and engage” reads the white paper. HUD 3.0 will offer integration of Head-Body-Weapon and provide significant enhancement of detection, targeting, engagements, and AI to match with the speed of the war. The STE Squad capability provides global terrain replication of operational environments for close combat training and rehearsals before them actually engaging in such an environment.
Generally, dismounted training relies on computer/projector screens that restrict Soldier movement severely. The new STE Squad capability brings together the live and virtual environments, thereby, developing an enhanced live training capability using operationally worn HUD 3.0.
The U.S. Army and the Israeli military have already been customers of Microsoft’s HoloLens devices that they have used in training. With the contract, the Army has become one of Microsoft’s top and most important HoloLens consumers. Magic Leap was also trying to win the contract that would have been a part of $500+ million Army program.
“Augmented reality technology will provide troops with more and better information to make decisions. This new work extends our longstanding, trusted relationship with the Department of Defense to this new area,” mentioned a Microsoft spokesman in an email.
For more information, check out the official IVAS white paper.