An improved model of Microsoft Corp.’s goggles won’t be deployed to U.S. Army combat troops for at least two years because the company must first demonstrate it has fixed flaws that left soldiers with headaches, nausea and eyestrain, according to the Army.
If the goggle passes its tests, a version will be fielded starting in July 2025, the Army said in a statement. The latest version is slimmer and lighter and is designed “to greatly improve soldier comfort,” Microsoft said in a statement. Software improvements are also intended to result in greater reliability and reduced power demand.
Microsoft’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS, is expected to provide a “heads-up display” for U.S. ground forces, similar to that for fighter pilots. It’s based on the company’s HoloLens “mixed reality” goggles.
A decision to deploy the military version would unlock billions of dollars for procurement that Congress has become unwilling to free up pending proof of improvements.
Over a decade, the Army projects spending as much as $21.9 billion for as many as 121,000 devices, spares and support services if all options are exercised. It has already accepted 5,000 early version goggles, with another 5,000 of the next version pending. The first 20 improved goggles, assembled by hand, are due to be delivered between July and September, with initial assessments by soldiers soon after, the Army said.
The stakes for Microsoft and the Army are likely to be highlighted Wednesday during a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing on Army procurement, with lawmakers upset about the $1.5 billion spent so far.
“I am particularly concerned about a product that would cost over $60,000 per soldier” and “think the system needs to be carefully scrutinized to ensure soldier lethality is enhanced,” Republican Representative Rob Wittman of Virginia, the subcommittee chairman, said in a statement.
Army weapons buyer Doug Bush acknowledged April 19 to a Senate Armed Services panel that “we are taking a deliberate approach” to evaluating and buying more goggles. With the initial models that tested poorly, the service “was, honestly, very, very aggressive on time line and production ramp up.”
“We want to make sure” the latest version is “exactly what the army needs or we’re not going to produce it,” Bush said.
Microsoft said in a statement that “we continue to partner very closely with the Army along all stages of IVAS development.”
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