In October, the Pentagon put to rest a $22 billion contract it had awarded to Microsoft to develop and deliver a military version of its augmented reality goggles “Hololens”, as part of the Integrated Visual Augmentation program. System (IVAS).
The militarized version of the Hololens would have allowed soldiers to gain access to tactical information in real-time. This technology is based on the Head-up Vision, also known as Head-up Display (HUD) that has been used in the aviation industry for more than forty years.
One of the reasons given by the Pentagon to justify its decision to put the contract to sleep was that the Hololens helmet was not sufficiently rugged.
Athos, an alternative to the Hololens, has been presented at the last SOFINS exhibition, (it is dedicated and specific to the needs of special forces) also uses a HUD for displaying all the information delivered by navigation instruments.
Athos is based on a technology developed by Toulouse, France-based company Eye-Lights. The company markets a system that displays on the visor of a motorcycle helmet all the information required for a biker, allowing him to stay focused on his driving and therefore help maintain the driver’s safety as well as others on the road.
This “head-up display” was initially designed with the help of Photospace, a company specializing in ultra-low-power electronics, radio-frequency equipment, micro-mechanics, and optronics.
Special forces commandos will be the first to use the “Athos” glasses, which are compatible with night vision systems and incorporates a GPS chip.
While currently Athos glasses allow only the display of navigation information, there is a plan to include more data on the HUD including tactical data.
France is not the only country investing in AR. Britain Ministry of Defense plans on spending nearly $ 4.4 million to develop ClipIR XD-E Thermal Clip-on systems (TCOS) for British soldiers. To this end, the government has awarded a contract to Thermoteknix with deliveries expected within the next 12 months.
“We are delighted that our state-of-the-art thermal imaging technology will play a crucial role in equipping British forces in the most challenging of environments. We look forward to working with the MoD to deliver world-leading battlefield technology to British troops, designed, engineered, and manufactured here in the UK,” said Dr. Richard Salisbury, Thermoteknix’s Managing Director.
He went on to add, “Our success will translate into the creation of more UK jobs and provide a boost to the local economy, while also driving British exports to worldwide markets. We are delighted to have been awarded a contract with the MoD during a challenging year for British businesses suffering from the effects of COVID.”
The ClipIR XD-E Thermal Clip-on systems uses a combination of night and thermal imaging systems and can receive data from external sources. They can be used in environments with low light and even when there is an absence of light.
ClipIR XD utilizes Thermoteknix’s patented shutterless XTi technology for exceptional thermal image quality and silent operation and does not use any moving parts.
The XTi technology provides the ClipIR XD with 60Hz framerate at ultra-low latency which avoids user fatigue or motion effects, a rapid start-up time to image, and does not require the thermal camera non-uniformity calibration before or during use regardless of ambient temperature or operating hours.
The ClipIR XD provides a 40° field of vision matching the full field of view of most night vision devices; this is crucial in close combat situations and on patrols when situational awareness is key to detect threats.