U.S. Army modernization officials have figured out how to use the service's new experimental combat goggles to scan soldiers for fever during coronavirus screenings.
The Army is in the middle of testing prototypes of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), a sophisticated set of googles based on Microsoft's HoloLens technology, that are designed to give soldiers a heads-up display. This display can project their weapon sight reticle and other tactical information into their field of view.
Restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19 prompted the Army to push back the next "soldier touch point" for the system, moving it from summer into fall.
At the same time, it dawned on IVAS program officials that the digital thermal sensors in IVAS could be adapted to detect a fever, according to an Army Futures Command news release.
"A week ago, we were talking about the potential impacts of the pandemic on the IVAS program; today we're talking about the potential impacts of IVAS on the pandemic," Brig. Gen. Dave Hodne, the director of the Army Future Command's Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team and Infantry Commandant at Fort Benning, Georgia, said in a statement.
Now, soldiers are using the IVAS prototypes to take the temperatures of hundreds of soldiers each day as they prepare for training at Benning, an installation that hosts thousands of soldiers going through courses such as infantry one-station unit training and Ranger School.
"That's the genius of this system; we can use this technology today to fight the virus, even as we shape it into the combat system our soldiers need tomorrow," Brig. Gen Tony Potts, who commands Program Executive Office Soldier at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, said in a statement.
Tom Bowman, the director of IVAS Science & Technology Special Project Office with the C5ISR's Night Vision Laboratory at Belvoir, came up with the idea of tweaking the IVAS software to detect a fever.
Bowman and his team of experts trained soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment to use the goggles to take troops' temperatures. The IVAS prototypes currently being used are not the ruggedized versions soldiers will test this fall, so they can only be used for fever-screening indoors.
Each day, hundreds of soldiers have filed through a processing center where they paused for five seconds so a soldier wearing IVAS goggles could detect their forehead and inner-eye temperatures.
The soldier's temperature registered in the operator's see-through, heads-up display, "a method that proves more economical and sanitary than the use of traditional thermometers," according to the release.
The process takes about 30 minutes to clear roughly 300 soldiers, according to the release, which added that anyone who registered a fever was moved to an onsite medical station for evaluation.
"We've always planned for an agile software system and a digital platform that can be upgraded and adapted to use against emerging threats in the future," Bowman said in the release. "No one anticipated the next threat to emerge would be a virus, but that's the enemy we face today."
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