Massive Contract Brings HoloLens Tech to Soldiers
Jeffrey Heimgartner posted on December 10, 2018 |
Microsoft HoloLens. (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)
Microsoft HoloLens. (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)

This has been a big year for the Microsoft HoloLens. After proving its worth in the medical industry and the launch of a product for the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry, HoloLens will now be used in combat missions and training for the U.S. military. Microsoft was awarded a $480 million, two-year contract to make the augmented reality (AR) headsets part of soldiers’ repertoire of equipment.

The deal arose from the army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System project, which has the goal to develop a headset that will increase “lethality, mobility and situational awareness” for soldiers in action. As part of the contract, Microsoft will be making enhancements to the existing headsets to meet government requirements. The company will develop an initial run of 2,550 prototypes of the headsets, with an expected follow-up of more than 100,000 devices.

After a successful launch in the AEC industry, HoloLens will now be used by U.S. soldiers for combat and training purposes. (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)
After a successful launch in the AEC industry, HoloLens will now be used by U.S. soldiers for combat and training purposes. (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)

The requirements will be challenging to meet. The goal is to create AR headsets that provide remote viewing of weapon sights to enable low-risk, rapid target acquisition; perform automated or assisted target acquisition; and track soldier vitals such as heart and breathing rates. The government wants the devices to incorporate an integrated 3D display, digital cameras, ballistic laser and hearing protection. Additional requirements include ensuring that the device weighs less than 1.5 pounds and is compatible with standard-issue helmets. Thermal sensing and night vision must also be added, and the field of vision will be ramped up to between 55 and 110 degrees.

Since the HoloLens has been geared primarily for the consumer market, additional considerations must be addressed for military use. The real-world use of the headsets will require them to be dustproof, waterproof, and resistant to shock and scratches. Microsoft’s foray into the AEC industry, as well as its previous collaboration with the military in using the HoloLens for training purposes, gave the company a leg up in the bidding process and has helped ready it for this big undertaking.

“Augmented reality technology will provide troops with more and better information to make decisions,” said a Microsoft spokesperson. “This new work extends our long-standing, trusted relationship with the Department of Defense to this new area.”

Interested in more AR innovations or want to share ideas? Check out engineering.com’s ProjectBoard.

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