Microsoft's headset for the military reportedly results in 'physical impairments' during tests – GeekWire

Microsoft’s headset for the military reportedly results in ‘physical impairments’ during tests – GeekWire

The IVAS headset is based on the Microsoft HoloLens. (Microsoft Photo)

The U.S. military is experiencing shortcomings with Microsoft’s customized mixed reality headset, according to reports by Bloomberg and Insider.

Internal military evaluations of system field tests this year concluded that soldiers suffered from headaches, nausea, and eyestrain, according to the reports. More than 80% of users with discomfort had symptoms less than three hours after using the headset, called the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), according to Bloomberg.

A summary of the field exercise, produced by the Pentagon’s testing office, said soldiers suffered “mission-affecting physical impairments.”

The U.S. Army awarded Microsoft a contract last year worth up to $21.88 billion over 10 years to produce a headset with augmented capabilities based on the tech giant’s HoloLens technology.

“Our close collaboration with the Army has enabled us to quickly build and iterate on the IVAS to develop a transformational platform that will deliver enhanced soldier safety and effectiveness,” said a Microsoft spokesperson. “We are moving forward with the production and delivery of the initial set of HoloLens-based devices to fulfill our commitment to bring this next generation technology to the US Army.” 

The military headset leverages existing high-resolution night, thermal, and soldier-borne sensors integrated into a unified Heads Up Display. It is designed to combine augmented reality and machine learning to enable a life-like mixed reality training environment.

Despite the drawbacks, the lenses also “enhanced navigation and coordination of unit movements,” according to the Pentagon report.

The device is expected to be released to soldiers in 2023, two years later than planned earlier, as it undergoes further rounds of testing and improvement.  

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