The individual Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) is the new version of the Army’s smart-soldier goggles and infantrymen testify to how much they change their combat marksmanship experience.
The IVAS are the newest Microsoft prototype that provides a sci-fi version of the tactical dust goggles soldiers used in the previous desert wars. The IVAS gives soldiers a heads-up display that allows them to see tactical maps and weapon-sight reticles. A thermal weapons projects the site reticle into the user's field of view via Bluetooth, also known as Rapid Target Acquisition. The current prototype straps to the helmet, sitting on the brim so it doesn't have to touch the wearer's face, the soldiers said.
However, members that tested it explained that the experience requires some time getting familiar with. For instance, you don’t shoulder the rifle the way you would do in real life. And some members said they gave up on how they were trained to shoot to be able to use the IVAS and adjusted the way they grabbed their weapons. It appeared that shooting with the IVAS may be similar to shooting with night observation devices (NODs).
Besides these differences compared to real life, they were surprised by how easy IVAS was to use and the situational awareness it offers. The IVAS offers a chest-mounted control pad, access menus and different functions that are easy to learn. The control pad allows the user to put their hand on it and track what buttons they were using by the tactile reference points on the control interface.
Inside the system, the user will have a map of the area they are in, and they plot points on the map. This allows the user to take the map away and have arrows and a compass to provide direction. This function makes it an interesting approach and a way to avoid getting lost.
Participants explained that it’s almost like a virtual reality game and works incredibly well. If the user looks up, they can see a compass that moves according to their head movements. If the user looks down, they will see a marker placed on the map. The IVAS will offer an arrow with the distance and direction of where the person needs to go.
Think about the implications of this tool in real life. For instance, being able to know your route even through hard visual obstacles such as smoke. Furthermore, you can pinpoint the location of each member of the unit and send them waypoints and commands in real-time.
Most flaws with this prototype were related to wire getting disconnected which requires the user to stop and make some self-repairs. This could be stressful, especially in real life when time is essential. Although the prototype has a lot of potential for the future, it still has a big area of improvement. For instance, some participants complain of how it affected their vision when attending to casualties. Another complaint was that the device is not as light as they would like and it’s bulky.
Although there’s still a lot of work to do in regard to this technology, it still very interesting to think about where this may take us and what are the implications of adding new gadgets and tools to real situations and to the infantrymen resources.