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HomeTechnologyMicrosoft "revives" the HoloLens: an improved version seduces the US Army

Microsoft “revives” the HoloLens: an improved version seduces the US Army

Microsoft’s ambitions in the IT market mixed reality (the union of the virtual with the augmented) seems to revive hand in hand with interest, nothing more and nothing less than United States Army.

Its HoloLens glasses, initially launched in 2016 It never had the expected success at the user level nor did it meet expectations in the business field, where it had equally disappointing results. However, the US military began to pay attention to it, so that if it adopted this technology definitively could mark a milestone for military applications.

The latter invested more than 20 billion dollars in its technological modernization project, which seeks to provide its soldiers with mixed reality devices. Microsoft partnered with the US military to make this ambitious goal a reality by providing prototypes of its smart glasses for evaluation.

HoloLens and mixed reality: the technology used by the US Army

Three soldiers from the US Parachute Division carry out military exercises with HoloLens. Photo: AFP.

The project, called VAT (Integrated Visual Augmentation System), initially encountered significant challenges. More than 80% of soldiers who tested early versions of the HoloLens experienced dizziness and nausea, raising questions about its viability.

However, instead of ending the partnership, the Office of Operational Test and Evaluation of the Army suggested working together with Microsoft to improve the performance of these lenses.

The requested improvements included the osensor optimization for night performancethe clarity of the screen, the field of vision and the reliability of the basic functions.

In response, Microsoft released IVAS 1.2 in July, an evolution of its mixed reality glasses designed for military use. Twenty prototypes were distributed between two squads of soldiers, who, after extensive testing, praised its performance.

A skeleton with a Microsoft HoloLens 2 at the CES 2023 technology fair. Photo: REUTERS.A skeleton with a Microsoft HoloLens 2 at the CES 2023 technology fair. Photo: REUTERS.

Army spokesman David Patterson noted that this new version addressed many of the previous concerns, including overall reliability and low-light performance. The most important, dizziness and nausea problems were completely resolvedPatterson reported, citing “positive feedback” from soldiers.

Despite this progress, the project is far from over. Microsoft and the US Government have signed a new agreement that stipulates the delivery of additional devices for a second round of intensive testing scheduled between April and June 2025. In this phase, Microsoft will be required to provide “pre-production” devices to demonstrate its mass production capacity.

If the project continues to advance as planned, the next step will be the implementation of these glasses in various units of the Armed Forces. The government of The US plans to invest up to $21.9 billion in the purchase of approximately 121,000 devices, which will include support and spare parts.

The HoloLens emerged to try dominate the underexplored segment of mixed reality with a device developed entirely by Microsoft. They were first announced in January 2015 and have since gone through several iterations and versions, the most recent being HoloLens 2.

The first generation of HoloLens did not offer a good user experience.  Photo: AP.The first generation of HoloLens did not offer a good user experience. Photo: AP.

Its main difference with the best-known virtual reality headsets –Oculus or HTC Vive– is in immersion: HoloLens fails to completely immerse the user in a virtual environment. Instead, they offer an experience that combine virtual elements with the real world that surrounds you. This is achieved by superimposing digital holograms in the field of view.

HoloLens on a standalone device, which means not being connected to a computer or console to use them. They run on a custom Microsoft processor called the Unit Processing Unit (HPU), which is responsible for tracking the user’s position in space and overlaying holograms in real time.

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