Army gets first batch of mixed reality glasses, more work to do

The military recently received its first batch of “mixed reality” goggles that the branch hopes can redefine combat for individual soldiers and squads.

These 5,000 goggles are part of an as-yet-unpublished Army fielding plan for the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, which is a combined night and thermal vision device with the ability to power navigation, position, weapon sights and an array of other user data.

Brig. Gen. Christopher Schneider, commander of the Program Executive Office-Soldier, told Army Times that the device will help the military achieve the tactical advantage of computing and situational awareness at the lowest echelons of the military. plugged.

The $22 billion program has experienced delays. And an audit by the Department of Defense’s inspector general released in April recommended that more troops be involved in the development of the device.

Schneider’s predecessor, Major General Anthony Potts, told the Army Times last year that tests revealed issues with software reliability, image distortion and moisture in the device.

Through late 2021 and into 2022, PEO-Soldier and other Army entities have reworked the device to address these issues.

The army accepted delivery of the reinforced version of the device in August. The initial in-service date was planned for the end of 2021. A new in-service date has not yet been announced, at the beginning of October.

IVAS’ core technology starts with gaming. The Microsoft HoloLens, an augmented reality eyewear, is the core platform. The company has been working with the military since at least 2018 as it adapts the technology to military needs, adding new cameras and sensors and integrating the device with existing military technology.

Pre-existing military technology includes the heads-up display, or HUD. It’s an effort to get soldiers to look at the battlefield and not require them to look at a smartphone, tablet or other type of device, a current problem for those using the Nett Warrior Tactical Awareness Kit. and Army, or ATAK.

In line with the development of the HUD, there is the Sights-Individual family of weapons, or FWS-I. This technology started with wiring and has now gone wireless. It allows the user to switch between a scope view, weapon aiming view, or picture-in-picture option to see both while using a rifle or carbine.

It allows soldiers to push a gun around a corner or over a bunker to see what they’re shooting at. It can even allow soldiers to literally fire from the hip while seeing their target through their scopes.

Using these pieces of army technology combined with a low light sensor and thermal vision, soldiers can see both at night and through obscurants such as dust, smoke and fog.

Both the HUD and FWS-I were developed at the night vision labs in Fort Belvoir, Va., which is also home to PEO-Soldier.

And both technologies are incorporated into the newest night vision device, the Enhanced-Binocular Night Vision Device.

ENVG-B has fielded 9,500 systems from its initial order for 10,262 systems in 2019, Maj. Bobby Lee, deputy product manager for ENVG-B told the Army Times.

While the IVAS struggled to perform in the night vision category due to a new approach to digital night vision versus legacy analog technology, the mask added a host of other options for users who go far beyond night vision.

These options include mission planning and rehearsal. Users can scan an area in 3D, mapping the location and then performing simulated exercises. PEO-Soldier demonstrated this to the Army Times at Fort Belvoir in 2020.

During field trials in 2019, soldiers from Fort Pickett, Va., used micro-drone images transmitted to the goggles to conduct reconnaissance on a line of trenches to defeat an enemy opposition force during the training event.

In January, soldiers from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, at Fort Stewart, Ga., used the IVAS inside Bradley Fighting Vehicles to see out of the vehicle, using the Bradley’s cameras.

In August, the soldiers had a similar experience with Strykers and were able to perform the same tasks.

Brig. Gen. Larry Burris, commanding officer of the School of Infantry and director of the Army’s Soldier Cross-Functional Lethality Team, told Army Times that they recently experimented with installing wireless routers in helicopters. and that they had been able to arrange for soldiers to share data with each other, the crew, and other aircraft.

Todd South has written about crime, the courts, government and the military for several publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer Finalist for a co-authored project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Navy veteran of the Iraq War.

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