U.S. Army soldiers are wrapping up the second field evaluation of the service's experimental, high-tech glasses that allow them to aim their weapon using a see-through digital display.
Soldier touch point (STP) 2 kicked off at Fort Pickett, Virginia, in late October to evaluate the latest prototypes of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), which is based on Microsoft's HoloLens technology.
The effort is a key program under the Soldier Lethality modernization priority, one that Army senior leaders hope will give close-combat forces greater tactical effectiveness than ever before. Slated for fielding in fiscal 2021, IVAS is being designed to equip soldiers with a heads-up display that allows them to view tactical maps as well as their weapon-sight reticle, Army officials have said.
"The final product ... will include a variety of features: a color see-through digital display that makes it possible for the user to access information without taking his eye off the battlefield; thermal and low-light sensors that make it possible to see in the dark, literally; rapid target acquisition and aided target identification; augmented reality and artificial intelligence, to name just a few," according to a news release Army Futures Command published Nov. 19.
As with STP 1 in the spring, both soldiers and Marines from conventional and special operations units have participated in the current evaluation -- the second of four STPs in the 24-month development schedule -- which is a "tougher test designed to assess new capabilities at the platoon level and increase demands on the system in more complex training environments," according to the release.
Microsoft sent a team from the West Coast to live at Fort Pickett for the duration of this STP, slated to end Nov. 22, to gather feedback and make changes to the goggle every day. So far, Microsoft has gathered feedback from more than 3,200 hours of user experience, the release states.
STP 3, scheduled for next summer, will be designed to put the "all-weather, ruggedized and militarized, form-fitting prototype to the test in company-level operations," according to the release. STP 4 will follow in 2021.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, who traveled to Pickett in the spring with Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville to test out IVAS, continues to push the high-tech system as the solution to more realistic training for soldiers.
The Army awarded a $480 million contract to Microsoft in November 2018 to develop IVAS to use augmented reality to create a synthetic training environment for soldiers.
IVAS is billed as a fight-rehearse-train system, meaning its "function on the battlefield is priority, but its augmented reality capabilities, like real-time mapping, will make it useful for training and rehearsing operations anywhere at any time," the release states.
"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, the Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team's lead action officer for IVAS, said in the release. "In this case, one of the greatest capabilities of IVAS is Aided Target Recognition, a feature that gives users the ability to quickly identify anything or anyone in sight, which means they can tell the difference between a threat and a civilian non-combatant."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.