When trying to imagine the future battleground, we picture robots with digital weapons, who can see through walls or trees, detecting their target through all-powerful devices. Actually, these days are fast becoming a reality.
The US army is currently testing and implementing augmented reality combat goggles which are designed be the key tool of the future solder. Based on IVAS technology (Integrated visual augmentation system), the goggles boast a set of innovative capabilities, from night vision and thermal imaging to navigation, targeting, communication, and mission planning tools. These abilities boost soldiers’ combat position, allowing them to see in the dark, aim and shoot without ever exposing themselves to the enemy’s line of sight; easily detect and differentiate their team from enemy squads, navigate and communicate effortlessly.
Sounds promising, doesn’t it? The US Army obviously thinks so, having invested billions in this endeavor, following a few less than successful experiences with previous systems, due to excess weight and battery burn rates.
However, nothing’s perfect… Anyone who’s ever paid a visit to the battleground understands that fighting is fast-paced event, constantly rolling out in unexpected ways and requiring total focus and ultra-fast response. Plainly put, soldiers in combat are not able to operate a sophisticated system… they’re too busy fighting.
Studies have shown that multitasking can decrease the performance in each individual task. This is no less true for the battleground. When a soldier has to deal with a complex digital system, as well as fighting at the same time, this is likely to negatively affect performance.
The attention required for operating the system could hamper the soldier’s ability to focus on the battle and respond as needed.
Another issue is that the system is extremely costly. Developed by Microsoft, and converted for military applications, the system is both high-priced and non-scalable. Currently, the US Military has ordered around 40K units, but this is just a tiny sample compared to the full quantity required, should this system be widely used.
Bottom line is, the system is truly a step into the future battleground, but it still has to evolve and downsize before it can truly become part of the day to day military uniform.