Image: Courtney Bacon/US Army
Microsoft’s Project IVAS, a military version of commercial Hololens, reaches a milestone: In 2023, soldiers are supposed to wear the AR headset in the field for the first time.
Starting next year, military men and women will be using Microsoft’s military IVAS (Integrated Visual Augmentation System) Hololens in the field for the first time. The US military plans to deliver 5,000 IVAS 1.0 and another 5,000 versions of IVAS 1.1 to troops.
The devices will go to operational and training units. The US Army does not say exactly where or what the headset will be used for. It received its first deliveries from Microsoft in September 2022..
Military Hololens had a long way to go in the field
Originally, the headphones should have been deployed in the field from September 2021. But technical problems, particularly with the screen, repeatedly delayed delivery. microsoft too missed a deadline set for September 2022 because the technology was not yet advanced enough.
It is unknown why military Hololens are now apparently good enough for use. In the summer, the The Appropriations Defense Subcommittee said that even the IVAS 1.1 version it still faced “significant development challenges.” The committee reduced the VATS budget for 2023 by $350 million, from $400 million to $50 million.
IVAS to give tactical advantages to US soldiers
The total IVAS project budget at the start of the project for Microsoft was up to $22 billion for 120,000 devices over a 10-year period. The extent to which Microsoft will be able to reduce this budget in the coming years is directly dependent on technical advances in augmented reality hardware.
The weak points are mainly display technology and computing power in relation to the size and weight of the device. The current IVAS unit is built into a helmet, while the computing unit and batteries are worn on the body.
The IVAS system is designed to give American soldiers visual superpowers like those found in computer games. Through the headset, they can see the positions of friends and enemies in their field of vision and recognize contours, access a virtual 3D map of the area of operations, see through smoke, send a microdrone and control it through the headphones, or monitor your health through biometric trackers. A night vision device is also integrated.
Microsoft has been radio silent about a new commercial Hololens during years. More recent, rumors said that Microsoft had largely abandoned XR hardware. However, Microsoft’s head of mixed reality recently said that Microsoft is still working on the hardware. and offered the prospect of an update. You didn’t mention Hololens 3.