The US Congress rejected further orders from the US Army of the HoloLens IVAS after field tests revealed problems.
The decades-long Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) program aims to equip US Army soldiers with AR helmets to increase situational awareness. IVAS is a heavily modified variant of HoloLens 2, more robust and housing many more sensors. The field of view was significantly increased from approx. 40°x30° to 80°x40°. It is wider than any other known transparent AR headset on the market. But field tests reportedly revealed “mission-impacting physical impairments,” including headaches, eye strain and nausea. Previous evaluations found reliability issues, with “essential functions” sometimes failing.
The first batch of 5,000 headsets is already being delivered, but Bloomberg reports that Congress has blocked the next 400 million dollars order of 6900 units after reviewing the test results. The existing batch of 5000 will reportedly be used for training.
The US Army has now awarded Microsoft a $125 million contract for a new 1.2 version with a “a lower profile heads-up display with distributed counterweight for improved user interface and comfort” as well as software changes to improve reliability and reduce power consumption.
Reported potential use cases for IVAS include:
- icon overlay on friendly units, targets, threats and points of interest
- built-in night vision and thermal display modes
- live picture-in-picture feeds from drones, including the Soldier Borne Sensor (SBS) personal drone
- simulated weapons and enemies for training exercises
- scanning people nearby for high temperature
- facial recognition for hostage rescue situations
The Army also tested integrations with vehicles, such as soldiers being able to see through the walls of the armored vehicle carrying them, so when dismounting they will have situational awareness.
Some Microsoft employees had protested by providing technology to the military, but CEO Satya Nadella responded by saying “We made a principled decision that we will not withhold technology from institutions that we have elected in democracies to protect the freedoms we enjoy.”
Microsoft also plans to release a new version of its regular non-militarized HoloLens, though “not yet.” It’s unclear how, if at all, the new headset relates to IVAS 1.2.