On the heels on the fielding of night vision goggles with options for thermal and rapid target acquisition software earlier this year, the Army is on track to field a “mixed reality” headset that would add a host data options into the view of every grunt.
The Integrated Visual Augmentation System recently hit its second soldier touchpoint, which has soldiers and Marines from both the conventional and special operations forces running through controlled scenarios with the goggle.
And a recent release announced that the goggle could be fielded as soon as late 2021.
Working with a team of technicians from Microsoft and using the HoloLens 2 platform that the company produces, the system pairs with the Nett Warrior navigation and communications tool currently housed on an Android smartphone device.
That link up gives IVAS users Heads Up Display navigation tools and ways to mark friendly and enemy positions and see a soldier-level tracker for their own unit members.
But other efforts would also use Aided Target Recognition, a feature that allows users to identify anything or anyone in their view.
“When terms like ‘situational awareness’ get thrown around time after time, it’s easy to lose sight of what it really means,” Maj. Brad Winn, IVAS lead action officer, said in a release.
The program is a major priority of the Army’s Cross Functional Team-Soldier Lethality. It partners that team with entities such as Program Executive Office-Soldier, the Combat Capabilities Development Command Research Lab and Soldier Center.
Military Times interviewed testers at the first touch-point event in April at Fort Pickett, Virginia. At that stage, soldiers and Marines ran through a limited “shoot house” scenario with the device, focused mostly on navigation, wayfinding and tracking the location of other fire team members.
The IVAS will eventually be paired with the fire control system on the Next Generation Squad Weapon automatic rifle and rifle, which is under development. That program is in the prototype phase, building a 6.8mm caliber weapon to replace both the M4 and Squad Automatic Weapon.
Earlier this year, weapons and ammunition experts for the Army’s small-arms programs laid out current and future capabilities that developers want to fold into the fire control and link to IVAS.
The recently fielded Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular has Rapid Target Acquisition software and a wireless link to a weapon-mounted camera. That allows users to toggle between the goggle view, weapon-mounted camera view or a picture-in-picture option to see both.
The RTA feature allows for soldiers to shoot from the hip by lining up the view in the goggle and even poke the weapon over barriers or around corners to hit targets without exposing themselves.
The IVAS will link into those existing features but also could feature facial recognition software, target tracking so that the goggle could keep track of multiple threats and even algorithms that would identify threatening postures or behaviors in view.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.