The use of immersive technologies with military connotations usually involves augmented reality (AR) more than virtual reality (VR) – at least in practical usage. Use beyond education, training or designing of military equipment, although there are certainly companies out there looking to VR for military solutions. Palmer Luckey’s start up Anduril comes to mind in that instance.
Actually it is something of a combination of the two technologies that are finding military application, on this occasion. With aerospace and defense technologies firm Honeywell teaming up with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to test a proof-of-concept prototype for an advanced head-mounted display (HMD) – or ‘vision system’ as it termed in the company’s press release – in use with the U.S. Army’s Bradley Fighting Vehicle. A plan for which was revealed two years ago.
Testing is currently underway for the HMD, which in essence allows a soldier to see all around the outside of the combat vehicle despite them being in a sealed environment with no other points of view, and one that doesn’t require a soldier to be visible. This is termed a a “closed-hatch” environment in military circles, with camera feeds and other imagery projected into each eye via holographic elements and augmented by information from an existing 360 degree array of sensors on the vehicle.
It is similar to some projects already being investigated by other military organisations.
“As the battlefield evolves and newer technologies become available for us to use, so does our research and approach to future combat vehicles,” explains John Vala, Crew Augmentation Simulation and Test lead for the United States Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC). “This emerging capability is a natural evolution of the closed-hatch environment, and we’re excited about the potential for application of this type of capability to current and future Army ground vehicles. We’re particularly looking forward to testing the limits of the vision technology in the prototype headset. With the inputs from various sensors and cameras outside the vehicle enabling this new capability, soldiers may potentially see more detail at greater distances without having to rely on the mirrored sights used today or leaving the protected confines of the vehicle.”
“Our work with the U.S. Army and DARPA on virtual and augmented reality is a testament to how government and industry collaboration can drive forward truly innovative solutions that will help our current and future military forces retain a technological edge,” said Bill Hancock, senior fellow and GXV-T program manager, Advanced Technology, Honeywell Aerospace. “From the successful testing of our windowless driving technology on a GXV-T vehicle in the desert of Arizona to this installation on the widely recognized Bradley Fighting Vehicle, we are developing a technology that directly improves the mission effectiveness of our military and safety of our soldiers.”
Testing is due to take place throughout the rest of 2018. VRFocus will bring you more news about the military uses of immersive technology very soon.