A soldier, after tests with Microsoft’s combat glasses: “This is going to get us killed”

Microsoft has been working for 4 years to adapt its HoloLens augmented reality glasses to the battlefield. A recent test of the US Army indicates that they have not passed four of six sections in evaluation

Last September it was known that the United States Army was continuing with the IVAS (Integrated Visual Augmentation System) program and had authorized the purchase of 5,000 modified Microsoft HoloLens augmented reality glasses for use on the battlefield . The decision was made after a successful round of tests in June. However, a report from the US Army to which Business Insider has had partial access reveals that in a recent test IVAS devices failed in four out of six sections evaluated .

According to the report, a soldier who participated in the test stated that “ these devices would have gotten us killed ”, referring to their use in a real combat situation. The alleged reason is that the glow emitted from the HoloLens screen is visible from hundreds of meters away , revealing the position of the soldier wearing the device. Testers also found that their field of vision, including peripheral vision, was reduced when the helmet was on and that the size and weight of the device made mobility difficult .

Despite these results, Gen. Christopher D. Schneider told the outlet that “the emerging results indicate that the program achieved success on most of the Army’s evaluation criteria. However, the results also identified areas where IVAS fell short and needs further improvement , which the Army will address. The Army will equip its soldiers with the most reliable and advanced equipment.”

Microsoft began working on this project in 2018 and won a contract with the United States Army that, if the project was carried through to the end, would mean the manufacture of 121,000 IVAS devices and an expense of 21.9 billion dollars over a decade. . However, the development of IVAS devices is encountering many difficulties.

American soldier equipped with an IVAS device.

American soldier equipped with an IVAS device. PHOTO (Custom Credit) Courtesy of Microsoft.

The US Army had already authorized the purchase of the first batch with 5,000 units in March 2021, but later suspended the decision after doubts arose about the performance of the device. In June, a new round of testing had 70 soldiers wearing Microsoft’s adapted HoloLens in a series of training missions that included advancing toward the enemy, attack, and defense. The results convinced the Army to give the green light again for the acquisition of the first batch .

IVAS combat goggles allow the wearer to receive orders and information displayed on a transparent screen in front of their eyes . During the tests carried out, target identification and acquisition capabilities, night vision, thermal imaging and temperature and light sensors have been tested . Its goal is to increase the ability of soldiers to “detect, decide and attack before the enemy.”

Microsoft, in an internal mail that transcended last March, indicated that it did not expect a good reception from the soldiers . “We expect a negative response from the customer and that soldier perception of the device will continue to be negative as improvements in reliability have been minimal,” a company employee wrote. According to ExtremeTech, an Office of Inspector General audit found that Microsoft never set minimum user acceptance levels to ensure IVAS met their needs, making it more likely that Microsoft will deliver a product that doesn’t satisfy them .

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