The Army has stated that a new model of Microsoft Corp. goggles will not be deployed to combat troops in the US Army for at least two more years. This is because the company needs to prove it has fixed the flaws which caused soldiers to suffer from headaches, nausea, and eye strain.
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The Army announced in a press release that if the goggle passes the tests, it will be available in July 2025. Microsoft stated that the latest version of the goggle is slimmer, lighter and designed to “greatly improve soldier comfort”. Software improvements will also result in increased reliability and lower power consumption.
Microsoft’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) is expected to provide a similar “heads-up” display for US ground forces as that used by fighter pilots. It’s based off the HoloLens mixed reality goggles.
The decision to deploy the military-version would unlock billions in procurement funds that Congress has been reluctant to release pending proof of improvement. The Army estimates spending up to $21.9 billion over a decade for 121,000 devices, spares, and support services, if all options were exercised. The Army has already accepted 5,000 goggles of the early version, and another 5,000 are pending. The Army stated that the first 20 hand-assembled improved goggles will be delivered between July to September. Initial assessments by soldiers will follow shortly after.
Microsoft’s Army goggles left soldiers with nausea and headaches
The stakes for Microsoft, the Army and the House were highlighted during a hearing of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Army procurement. The panel chairman was skeptical about the $1.5 Billion spent so far.
In a statement, Representative Rob Wittman (a Virginia Republican) and the chairman of the subcommittee said: “I am especially concerned about a system that would cost more than $60,000 per soldier.” “I think the system needs to carefully scrutinized in order to ensure soldier lethality can be enhanced,” Wittman said.
In a prepared statement, Army weapons buyer Doug Bush said that the service and Microsoft had “identified solutions for these areas through refinements based on soldier” input, as the Army plans to field the updated model “IVAS 1.2”, to combat forces as early as July 20,25.
According to the Army’s detailed schedule, the goggles must pass through a gantlet. The first 20 improved hand-built models will be delivered in July and will support the first soldier evaluation between October and December.
If the initial assessment is successful, the Army will award a contract for additional devices to be used in a second soldier’s evaluation between July and September 2024.
If the event is successful, a full-blown operational test of combat will be conducted between April and June in 2025. If the graduation test is successful, then the goggles will be issued to combat units in a few months.
Bush told a Senate Armed Services Committee on April 19, “we are taking an intentional approach” in evaluating and purchasing more goggles. The service was “honestly, very aggressive” in terms of time and production ramp-up for the initial models which failed to perform well.
Bush said that he wanted to be sure the latest version was “exactly” what the army needed, or he would not produce it.
Microsoft said in a press release that “we continue our partnership very closely with Army at all stages of IVAS Development.”
Updates after the seventh paragraph, with Army statement and test schedule.
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