For military purposes, Microsoft has developed special AR glasses based on Hololens for the US Army to be used in combat. However, the combat glasses now seem to be causing problems. Accordingly, the US military has cancelled its large order for the time being. Before the multi-million dollar deal can go through, the tech company based in Redmond (Washington) will have to rework the glasses. For Microsoft, however, this should be a worthwhile return.
Microsoft equips US military
It is quite exciting to see how new technical developments from Microsoft develop. A well-known example is certainly Kinect for the Xbox. The questionable motion control for Microsoft’s game console was first shown in 2010 at the E3 game show in Los Angeles. The company was so convinced by the control method, which worked more or less poorly, that it was included with the release of the Xbox One. However, Microsoft reacted with growing criticism and discontinued the system. But that was only Kinect’s death in the video game sector. Behind the scenes, the control method still plays a big role. For example, the US military uses Kinect to give therapy to their soldiers.
Incidentally, a very similar fate has befallen Microsoft Hololens. The AR technology, which was first shown at E3 in 2015, caused great astonishment among video game journalists, but it never made it to a real release in the consumer sector. Instead, the technology was primarily used by companies for vivid presentations. But the U.S. military also showed interest in the second generation of AR glasses. The army has ordered a total of 6900 Hololens specially adapted to military requirements at a price of around 400 million US dollars, as we reported back in April 2021. That equates to just under $57,971 per pair of combat goggles. So expectations on the part of the U.S. military were correspondingly high.
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US military unhappy with Hololens
Expectations on the part of the U.S. Army, however, have apparently not been met. After conducting intensive tests, the verdict sounds scathing, to say the least. Microsoft would have to make further improvements to its combat glasses. But that also seems to be lucrative. According to a report from Bloomberg, the tech company, along with the other companies involved in the development, will receive another $40 million for the improvements. This brings the price per pair of combat goggles to $63,768. The problems expressed by the military and especially the soldiers sound like typical VR or AR problems.
More than 80 percent of the soldiers involved in the test are said to have experienced problems such as nausea, painful eyes or headaches. On top of that, one of the test subjects complained about glaring errors in the design. For example, the wearer of the combat goggles is much easier to see, especially in the dark. This is due to the system’s permanent illumination. Consequently, you become an easy target for the enemy side. However, there are also said to have been quite fundamental flaws with the AR glasses themselves. In the course of an endurance test, which probably included three exercises over a duration of 72 hours, there were namely also regular failures of essential features of the system.
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Hololens makes for futuristic U.S. Army
The combat goggles for the U.S. military no longer have much in common with the AR technology first unveiled to the public nearly seven and a half years ago. Rather, the classic Hololens 2 forms the basis for a system called Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS). This is partly reminiscent of science fiction movies or video games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. IVAS is set to become a permanent fixture in the U.S. Army before the end of the year. However, Microsoft will apparently have to make major improvements in order for the system to function properly. And this is not the first time this has happened.
The company has already announced further improvements at the end of 2022. In version 1.2, the system should not only work more energy-efficiently, but also be able to offer more comfort for the soldiers. For Microsoft, the cooperation with the US Army should definitely be worthwhile. If the first order of 6900 pairs of glasses proves to be a good buy, the US military would like to place further orders. According to Bloomberg, a total of 121,000 IVAS glasses will be ordered over the next ten years.