The military has slightly delayed some of the ongoing work on its futuristic “mixed reality” glasses to improve consistency between devices, humidity control and a better range of vision, according to officials involved in the program.
The Integrated Vision Augmentation System, or IVAS, was scheduled to undergo operational testing this fall, but that was pushed back to May 2022.
It also delays the first unit to be equipped with the glasses from mid-year 2022 to September 2022, the end of the year.
The device used the Microsoft HoloLens platform to create a mask capable of quickly acquiring targets, navigating, tagging targets, and many other features.
Earlier this year, the military announced a $ 21.8 billion contract with Microsoft as part of the IVAS program.
Major General Anthony Potts, chief of the Executive Office of the Soldier Program, spoke with Army Times on Thursday about the change, which was announced in an official statement the same day.
Potts said his team has been working with the Army and Microsoft night vision labs throughout the project since 2018.
Here is the current IVAS schedule, according to Program Executive Office-Soldier:
- October 2020: Soldier 3 Contact Point
- December 2020: rapid commissioning decision
- January 2021: Vehicle integration with Strykers and Bradleys.
- February 2021: Cold weather test
- March 2021: Production price, tropical weather test
- April 2021: Soldier 4 contact point
- July 2021: criteria before the planned operational test user jury provided
- September 2021: Vehicle integration with Bradley again, focusing on adversarial electronic warfare and cybersecurity.
- May 2022: Operational test
- September 2022: First equipped unit
Ahead of testing in August, Potts said there were inconsistencies in some of the heads-up displays. The problem, at times, was causing a “screen door effect”, meaning that the resolution of the image had a sort of grid view.
Technicians narrowed the problem down to the moisture content of the system, Potts said. And the developers have a solution.
Another obstacle concerned the field of vision. Even the best eyeglass devices, a 40-degree field of view was the best range achieved, according to Potts. The IVAS program aimed to double that to an 80-degree field of view.
The problem, Potts said, was that he was pushing the boundaries of what waveguide technology is capable of today.
The wider field of view caused a stretch effect that slightly misaligned the images in the mixed reality view.
Potts likened it to stretching a ball and seeing a distorted view. Although it is almost indistinguishable, the human eye is constantly trying to reconcile the misalignment, which can cause problems.
While the issues did not compromise the delivery of the device, Potts said he had informed the Army Acquisitions Executive Office and senior management that he believed it was best to resolve these issues. while continuing the efforts on other elements of the mask.
Other work that is going on schedule, Potts said, includes stabilizing software packages, single-channel data over-the-air, tactical cloud packages, and overall system integration.
âIf six or nine more months gives us really good, much better display quality,â then the delay was worth it, said Potts.
“No one remembers how long it took them to get the Apache into the field,” Potts added. “All they know is it’s the biggest attack helicopter in the world.”
For now, the work in progress is based on feedback from various members of the Army. Night Vision Labs and Microsoft, as well as extensive modeling and simulations to find fixes, according to Potts.
“It’s … responsible program management,” said Potts. âWe don’t want to produce these systems yet. We need to make the changes we need to clean up the display and reliability.
The first user jury is scheduled between January and February, which will determine if the fixes worked.
âThe modeling and simulation say it’s going to work, but we’re going to be responsible for the taxpayer’s money,â Potts said.
He added that senior executives down to the Secretary of the Army were in favor of resolving display issues before pushing production. If the simulation fixes don’t work, Potts said they will have more decision points.
They’ve narrowed the field of view to what’s likely to be around 70 degrees. What about the original 80 degree target? It’s probably not necessary, says Potts.
That’s because the mask has to be designed with baffles, a blocker that prevents light leakage so opponents don’t spot that all-too-familiar glow on the wearer’s face.
They found in assessments that the deflectors already limited the field of view to around 70 degrees, Potts said.
Even with the display issues, the Soldiers used IVAS in assessments and completed land navigation courses in record time, according to Potts.
Todd South has written on crime, courts, government and the military for several publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-authored project on witness intimidation. Todd is a veteran of the Iraq War Marines.