Microsoft's $22 billion worth smart goggles reportedly failed in US Army tests
In 2021, the U.S. Army awarded a $22 billion dollar contract to Microsoft to build HoloLens-like smart goggles for its soldiers. Over a year later, the smart goggles program has been plagued with delays as well as performance issues and failed four of six elements in a test conducted by the U.S. Army, Business Insider has reported.
The U.S. Army first awarded Microsoft a $480 million contract in 2018 to create a prototype of the advanced smart goggles, dubbed Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS). Although the smart goggles look much like Microsoft's commercially available HoloLens Augmented Reality (AR) headsets, the Army required the IVAS to do much more.
What is the IVAS designed to do?
As Interesting Engineering reported in 2021, the U.S Army isn't buying the HoloLens from Microsoft but wants it to bundle a number of technologies into one platform that its soldiers can use to train, rehearse and fight.
This would require the headsets to incorporate high-resolution night vision, thermal and solider-borne sensors to increase situational awareness and target engagement while the machine learning ability coupled with AR is to provide a life-like training environment.
As per the agreement, Microsoft is scheduled to deliver 120,000 IVAS headsets over a period of 10 years, priced at nearly $22 billion.
Devices that could get US soldiers killed
In a recently held, "operational demo", the device failed in four out of six evaluation events, an internal US Army report, excerpts of which were provided to Business Insider said. One of the major flaws of the device was the glow of its display which was visible from hundreds of meters away. Such a display could alert enemy fighters of the location of US Army soldiers, putting them at risk of being killed, one of the testers said in the report.
Another issue that soldiers faced was the limited field of view and peripheral vision when wearing the IVAS and the restriction on a soldier's movement on account of the size and weight of the device.
Apparently, Microsoft was expecting a negative reception of its device during the evaluation due to the problems with performance in low light conditions, Business Insider said in its report. Microsoft's Holo Lens is yet to taste commercial success and the Redmond-headquartered company has seen attrition of top talent after Facebook unveiled its plans of building the metaverse last year.
Even after a poor evaluation, the U.S. Army remains committed to its plans of acquiring the IVAS headsets. In fact, an Army spokesperson told Business Insider that the evaluation was a success. The results of the evaluation had helped identify the areas where the IVAS fell short and needed improvements, which will now be addressed, Brigadier General Christopher D. Schneider said in a statement to the news outlet.
The statement also reaffirmed the U.S. Army's commitment to providing its soldiers with the most advanced and reliable equipment.
Microsoft plans to begin delivery of some 5,000 IVAS to the U.S. Army, Interesting Engineering reported last month.
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