However, it is IVAS’ augmented reality functions that have been expected to be truly revolutionary for soldiers, as you can read more about in detail here. The headsets can provide a wealth of information to individual troops, such as waypoints and other navigation symbology, much in the same way helmet-mounted displays do for pilots flying many types of modern combat aircraft.
In addition, the networked systems can pipe in video feeds and other sensor data from various offboard sources. Different sensor feeds could then be fused together to provide a higher fidelity view of the battlespace. Soldiers in a single unit would be able to share what they see directly with each other, as well as with other individuals further afield.
Artificial intelligence-driven software might also be able to help automatically detect and identify potential threats. Prototype versions of IVAS reportedly already had some facial recognition capability.
The IVAS headsets were also set to provide valuable training capabilities, including the ability to help simulate a diverse array of threats virtually during live exercises. This, in turn, would give even relatively small facilities the option to conduct more realistic and expansive drills without any additional resources.
However, early prototype IVAS systems were simply not rugged enough for operational use, with one iteration notably not being able to work in the rain. The Army has conducted more rigorous testing of the latest version, with what it had were positive results. Soldiers have also experimented with using IVAS headsets within vehicles and during airmobile operations.
Questions have also been raised about the conformal batteries that soldiers need to carry in their gear to power the IVAS headsets, both in regards to how long they can keep the systems running and safety concerns about what might happen if they get shot or otherwise damaged in combat. The Army has said in the past that it has made progress on improving the capabilities of the batteries and their resistance to incoming fire.
It is certainly possible that, despite progress in these areas, the Army has still determined that IVAS is not actually ready for widespread fielding just yet. At the same time, the problems that have led the service to halt the project, at least temporarily, may also be completely unrelated to any of these previously known issues.
It is also worth pointing that employees at Microsoft have protested the company’s development of a version of HoloLens for the U.S. military in the past. However, there is no indication, one way or another, that this has been a factor in the recent pause in the IVAS program.
In addition, it’s interesting to note that the Army is already fielding Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binoculars (ENVG-B), which it says offer advanced night vision, thermal imaging, and networked sensor fusion capabilities. The service has also indicated in the past that it wants to add more robust augmented reality features to the ENVG-B. You can read more about those goggles here.