Microsoft and the U.S. Army have been working together to develop practical and effective militarised augmented reality headsets, known as the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS). The latest version of this headset, IVAS version 1.2, is currently in development and is expected to be lighter, better balanced, and have new capabilities, such as color-coded navigation, making it more usable in real-world situations.
The development of IVAS has not been without its challenges however. The project has seen several delays since its initial announcement. However, Microsoft and the U.S. Army have continued to work together to create a combat-ready headset that can aid soldiers in combat. The Army has already purchased 5,000 version 1.0 headsets and an additional 5,000 version 1.1 systems. These are expected to be delivered early in the 2024 fiscal year.
IVAS is based on Microsoft’s HoloLens and has been in the works for several years. Microsoft announced a deal with the U.S. Army worth potentially $22 billion to produce headsets, but the project has hit some bumps along the way. The deal was delayed in October 2021.
The new design of IVAS version 1.2 is intended to make the headset more practical and effective for soldiers to use. Previous versions of IVAS had a chest-mounted controller and computer that were together. The new version 1.2 separates the controller from the PC.
The new design allows the computer to be moved around the torso, and the computer for the system is now mounted on the back of the helmet. This change should also reduce neck strain, as earlier models of IVAS were more front-heavy.
In addition to being better balanced, version 1.2 of IVAS is lighter, with a target weight of 2.85 lbs compared to the 3.4 lbs of its predecessor. Army Times highlighted that 2.85 lbs is the same weight as Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binoculars.
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One of the biggest concerns with IVAS is that it can cause nausea and dizziness in soldiers. However, the Army has a team dedicated to addressing this issue, and they will be working alongside partners from Microsoft Visual Sciences and other experts to find a solution.
IVAS version 1.2 will undergo two phases of feedback sessions from soldiers before operational testing in the 2025 fiscal year. If everything remains on schedule, field testing will occur by the end of the 2025 fiscal year.
Bloomberg reported earlier this year that the U.S. Army decided not to place any more orders for military-grade HoloLens headsets this fiscal year. Instead, they will be spending a significant sum on developing an improved version of IVAS.
Overall, the goal of the IVAS project is to create a combat-ready headset that is more practical and effective for use in real-world scenarios. While there have been some delays and challenges, Microsoft and the U.S. Army are continuing to work together to achieve this goal.