Microsoft now seems to have a better handle on the technical challenges of adapting Hololens 2 data glasses for use in military combat. The US Army is now accepting at least a first small tranche of the high-tech combat goggles from Redmond, citing promising results from field tests, according to the Bloomberg financial service.
5000 glasses for US ground forces
Douglas Bush, who is responsible for procurement, logistics and technology at the Army, is said to have given the go-ahead for delivery in August. According to a Bush spokesman, it is about some of the first of the 5,000 units ordered with technically enhanced perception capabilities ("augmented reality" - AR). The Army had previously postponed the supply agreement pending thorough testing due to concerns about the devices' performance.
Microsoft's Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) is designed to provide US ground forces with a special display that doesn't require them to lower their heads themselves. The system is an adapted version of the HoloLens. It should enable commanders, for example, to project information onto a visor in front of the soldier's face.
Area map just a look down away
The military HoloLens reportedly displays a schematic map of the area, including buildings and entrances, as well as your position and that of others with such glasses nearby on its transparent visor when you look down. Functions such as night vision should be integrated. US fighter pilots already have similar technical tools at their disposal.
The Army gave Microsoft an extensive production order in April last year , according to which it plans to provide up to $21.9 billion over the course of a decade for initially more than 120,000 AR glasses, spare parts and supporting cloud services. The prerequisite for this, however, is that the IT giant meets all the specified requirements.
In October 2021 , the US Army decided to postpone the first major IVAS field test and the commissioning of the devices to a later date in 2022. It was said at the time that they were sticking to the "partnership with Microsoft in order to advance specific technologies that meet operational requirements and maximize the benefits for the armed forces".
An initial check on electronic warfare and cyber security was carried out in September 2021, with further checks to follow throughout 2022. This decision allows the Army and industry team to "continue to enhance the IVAS technology platform to ensure Soldiers achieve superiority in operations across multiple domains."
"We've had a good dry run and we'll learn from it," Bush said recently after being briefed on the latest results. He reiterated, "The Army remains confident that the program will be successful." Microsoft declined to comment to Bloomberg.
Cooperation also with controversial company Clearview
In March, the US Army initially ordered 5,000 AR glasses worth 373 million US dollars, but later put the order on hold. The current audit report, which has not yet been released, is intended to help the US Congress decide whether to approve the US$424.2 million that the Army intends to spend on the IVAS program for the fiscal year beginning in October. The responsible committees of the House of Representatives and the Senate had pleaded for deep cuts in the army's application for authorization in anticipation of continued poor test results.
In the meantime, the US military has also signed a contract with the New York company Clearview AI, which specializes in biometric facial recognition, to test AR glasses . Corresponding Air Force procurement documents show that the controversial company is to demonstrate options for "airfield protection" for 49,847 US dollars. The main focus here is on identity checks that can be carried out by hand. A possible broader use of the technology should be decided after the pilot project.
This article has previously appeared on the website: https://www.heise.de/news/Nach-Technikproblemen-Microsoft-liefert-erste-Hololens-Brillen-ans-US-Militaer-7253243.html