Why the fancy army AR glasses are delayed
With cameras and screens promising superhuman vision, the military’s augmented reality glasses were believed to provide an advantage in combat. Instead, a new round of testing delays, combined with an audit by the Army Inspector General, could cast doubt on the entire program.
The IVAS, or Integrated Visual Augmentation System, is a helmet adapted from the Microsoft HoloLens. By integrating processing power, cameras and a head-up display, the idea is that any soldier with a helmet can see more of the world around them. It’s a tremendous promise: that high-tech eyewear can enable soldiers not only to see the battlefield better, but to see more of it.
It is, at least currently, too good to be true. As Janes first reported, on October 4, “the Pentagon Inspector General informed the military that it was running a ‘subject audit’ in its Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS)” to see if the system the military was purchasing and was testing actually met his stated needs.
On October 18, two of the military offices responsible for procuring the IVAS system recognized the problem and announced that testing was delayed for six months, from late 2021 to May 2022.
[Related: See what combat could look like through the Army’s futuristic night vision goggles]
“The developers used the Microsoft HoloLens to create a system capable of quickly acquiring targets, navigating, marking targets and many other features, including a field of view almost twice as wide as those offered by the systems. current, “wrote Karen Saunders, senior military official. and General John Murray of Army Futures Command, in the statement announcing the delay.
The specific problem was that the IVAS glasses offered too wide a field of view and suffered from it.
“At 80 degrees, IVAS pushed the limits of the capabilities of waveguide technology and the field of view started to lose resolution,” Saunders and Murray continued. “By making minor reductions, developers find better quality and clearer visibility. “
In the world of commercial technology and software, this is quite common. A product is delivered in an early form, and regular use, feedback, and data collection theoretically lead to better future design. Software updates, which are an integral part of consumer technology, are a way to correct errors after the fact, resulting in a more complete product after use.
It is a method in contradiction with the typical rigor of military acquisition, where the technology must prove its reliability and effectiveness before deploying. This is an understandable obstacle, as the consequences of faulty military equipment can be life or death. This means that, when adapting a commercial tool for military use, such a conflict was almost inevitable.
Part of IVAS ‘selling point specifically was this wider field of vision. Although 80 degrees is still smaller than the 120 degrees of vision that people naturally have, it was much more than the typical 40-degree field of view of night vision goggles. This extra margin of vision can be counterproductive if the stretching to fit process results in loss of resolution, as would have happened with IVAS.
[Related: These augmented-reality goggles let soldiers see through vehicle walls]
Each additional degree recovered brings the device closer to its basic concept, which is augmented sight as a boon and not a limitation. This is a delicate balance to strike, as this is a helmet placed between the wearer and the world, and distorted or incomplete information would make it worse than not being worn at all.
The army especially wants the IVAS to work as planned, because it is the master piece for a networked warfare system, where useful new information is shared with soldiers so that they can act immediately. It’s one thing to be informed that a target is ahead, quite another to have that target placed on a heads-up display, and yet another to have the display image misled on the location. of the target.
By investigating the limitation and deferring testing, the military is following best practices to ensure delivered equipment performs as promised. It’s a slow process compared to the world of mainstream tech, but it evolves quite quickly for military acquisitions, even with the delay.