November 29, 2018 – Microsoft has been awarded a contract by the US Army worth USD $479 million for the supply of its HoloLens augmented reality headsets. The US Army contract, which went to tender in August this year, asked for “innovative solutions to accelerate lethal defensive and offensive capabilities utilizing innovative components, including commercial items, for the selection of an Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS)”.
As the winning bidder, Microsoft will supply the Army with 2,550 IVAS prototypes in four increments over a 24 month period. Beginning with a commercial proof of concept, the Army expects these prototype IVAS models to evolve in to a tailored military solution to prove manufacturing feasibility for further production upon successful completion of this initial contract.
The US Army has stated that there is an operational need for IVAS (formerly Heads-Up Display (HUD 3.0)) capability to “regain overmatch” (in lamens terms, to be stronger, better armed, or more skillful) against threats, as well as a need for improved training and simulation tools to provide its soldiers with the ability to train and rehearse using the same equipment utilized in actual operations.
The contract documents state that “rapid and agile prototyping is necessary” and that a “test-fix-test” approach will be utilized in order to quickly incorporate changes into the design. The desired end state of the platform will be one that provides “increased lethality, mobility, and situational awareness”, and is expected to include the following features:
- Head Borne Vision System (no helmet mount assembly; low profile, conformal goggle/visor system providing 24/7 squad situational awareness; see thru, wide field of view binocular 3D display; dual high resolution digital color sensors, integral ballistic, laser and hearing protections with 3D sound field); provides a natural field of view for the user similar to current types of eye protection;
- Day/Night Rapid Target Acquisition (RTA) from Family of Weapon Sights-Individual (FWS-I) and remote viewing from Family of Weapon Sights–Crew Served (FWS-CS);
- Machine Learning Capabilities/Artificial Intelligence (AI);
- Synthetic Training Environment (STE) Squad Capability (One World Terrain, Training Simulation Software, Training Management Tools, and associated integration hardware);
- An Adaptive Squad Operating System;
- Nett Warrior 3.0/Tactical Assault Kit (TAK) Connectivity (operating on Secure But Unclassified (SBU) portion of the Integrated Tactical Network (ITN) using current military radios; operation in open, contested and denied environments with minimum capability to see/shoot/move/navigate);
- Fused Day/Night Vision Capabilities for multiple sensor/imaging feeds;
- Intra-Soldier Wireless (ISW) Connectivity (multi-point wireless) for on body Soldier devices;
- Squad Lethality Ratings/Metrics (real-time measure of squad & soldier performance; physiological feedback to include but not limited to concussions, heart rate, breathing rate, readiness);
- Mixed/Live Reality for Combat Training and Rehearsals including Navigation, Targeting, Phase Line (Symbology);
- Automatic or Aided Target Recognition (ATR) for relevant threats;
- Government Owned Soldier/Squad Architecture (collaboratively developed by Government and industry over 24 months with key interfaces across squad identified, developed, validated, and implemented; tactical power architecture and management system);
- Modular open source data, unclassified or perishable Position, Location, Information (PLI) and stored in the Cloud.
Video credit: US Army/YouTube