Universal soldier: AR and VR in the military

The universal soldier of the future is more efficient, more resilient and deadlier than ever. VR and AR are the main drivers of this evolution.

Armed forces have relied on training simulators for years to assist troops prepare for action, but it's a less known fact that the military was also the pioneer of augmented reality. Back in the 90s Louis Rosenberg developed the first fully immersive AR system ever called Virtual Fixtures at the USAF Armstrong Labs. The platform aimed to improve operator speed and accuracy by alerting the user about changes in the environment and support hand-eye coordination for object manipulation tasks. The U.S. armed forces have been testing augmented reality applications ever since.

Whereas VR has been mainly restricted to training exercises, AR has been used in the field for years. For example, military personnel can access information about a certain territory in real time using a pair of goggles.

The military use of AR and VR is an exceptionally innovative field, and there are three companies really worth watching.

LimpidArmor

Ukrainian startup LimpidArmor is working on an AR platform for the crew of armored vehicles. A 360-degree panoramic view of the surroundings is broadcasted to a Microsoft HoloLens, displayed together with telemetry data and additional virtual tips. The team’s concept received permission from the Ukrainian authorities and the work with the Lviv Armor Vehicle Factory has already started. It looks incredibly badass.



Svarog

The Russian military is testing Svarog, a new VR helmet for drone pilots. Researchers try to develop a new type of headset allowing operators to control unmanned aerial drones simply by turning their heads and looking at the target – from the comfort of the military base. Svarog is designed to be lightweight and it has an outstanding resolution of 5120x2180 pixels.  Of course it is very likely that the USAF is also working on a similar technology, only under secrecy.

© Chris Helgren / Reuters

© Chris Helgren / Reuters

Diver Augmented Vision Display (DAVD)

Navy divers provide underwater support for maritime missions, including survey, ship and submarine maintenance or search and rescue operations. The U.S. Navy has recently developed a new diver’s helmet called DAVD with a built-in HUD (Heads-up Display) with helpful information and services for divers.

Major issues the divers face are the restriction of the field of view and the thick neoprene gloves. Fiddling with a wrist-mounted display is not the best solution. With the DAVD helmet divers have everything they visually need: they can check their location, and view sonar or satellite data right in front of their eyes. Any information can be transferred to the Diver Augmented Vision Display from the surface making diving missions both safer and more efficient.