back to article Microsoft HoloLens proves to be a headache for US soldiers

Microsoft Corp's HoloLens mixed reality goggles need further refinement before they're ready for US soldiers, according to a Defense Department report summary. The 79-page report, obtained by Bloomberg, on the US Army's pilot testing of HoloLens is designated "Controlled Unclassified Information" and has not been made public …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Just the thought makes me want to vomit

    Putting something on your head that runs everything through a computer before it gets to your eyes is a bad idea for any user, doubly so if threats are coming at you.

    Whether it's AR or VR, whether it's in combat or riding a bike or crossing a street, it's all a bad idea.

    I can see some use for an AR setup on a glasses frame with a single screen, out of the line of sight because you can still see the real world.

    But whether it's Micro$oft or Meta, goggles Zuck.

    1. Bitsminer Silver badge

      Re: Just the thought makes me want to vomit

      That's a good point -- if you can't ride a bicycle with these gadgets on your head, the MVP ain't. (MVP = minimum viable product).

      Contrast the current state of Google Glass. They have had some success in industrial settings for equipment assembly, repair and test. Google Glass

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        They have had some success in industrial settings for equipment assembly, repair and test.

        So what.

        A firm called Xybernaut were there a decade before them.

        IMHO the chanlenge is to map the pictures to overlay what the wearer is seeing so the drawings make sense.

        That implies realtime image recog/scale/rotate.

        But that's a bit niche (and doesn't really give much scope for Googles favourite passtime of slurping up any unsecured personal information)

    2. Dave 126

      Re: Just the thought makes me want to vomit

      > Putting something on your head that runs everything through a computer before it gets to your eyes is a bad idea for any user, doubly so if threats are coming at you.

      Putting something on my head is the first thing I do when threats are coming at me!

      But seriously, threats coming at you in darkness are easier to see through night vision goggles. Threats in smoky areas: infrared. Threats in the clouds? Radar. Okay, these don't require a computer per se to function, but is that what you meant?

      At least one Navy Seal (see below) thinks that when when a threat is coming at him, he'd rather have his rifle aimed at the threat and his head down low behind a wall. If that means having video pass through a computer before it hits his eye, so be it. Its preferable to having a bullet pass through his eye before it hits his computer.

      Just to clarify, in VR everything that hits your eyeballs is generated by the display units. In AR, computer generated content is placed over what your eyes see of the real world. This article was about AR. Nobody is advocating VR for riding bikes or crossing streets.

      (There is also Pass-through AR, an attempt to sidestep the challenges of overlaying images over your view of the world, in which a VR display and cameras attempt to emulate an AR display by feeding live video to the display... experts say this introduces big problems of its own. Nausea from latency. High video bandwidth leading to high power consumption. Eyeballs getting confused on what to focus on etc. )

      1. that one in the corner Silver badge

        To pass-through or not

        I agree with what you are saying, but there is clearly some disagreement on terminology, which really doesn't help :-(

        According to Tom's Hardware about the device, where they report on a briefing given by MS:

        "Unlike VR headsets, which produce visuals via OLED displays that are situated right in front of your eyes that you view through glass lenses, HoloLens is a passthrough device. That is, you see the real world through the device’s clear lenses, and images (holograms) are projected out in front of you, up to several meters away."

        https://www.tomshardware.com/news/microsoft-hololens-components-hpu-28nm,32546.html

        FWIW my understanding of the phrase matches yours, not Tom's/MS's - e.g., "the system could fill that bit of the display with an unaugmented pass through from the camera".

      2. Stuart Castle Silver badge

        Re: Just the thought makes me want to vomit

        I can see that it might be quite handy to add a camera to the sight of a gun, and have that pipe video to some sort of head mounted screen, whether that'a on Google Glass, Hololens or whatever.. It could also be handy for certain ranks to see tactical information.

    3. DS999 Silver badge

      AR wouldn't be such a problem

      If you had completely transparent glasses which added a very small amount of additional context to what you are seeing, like pointing out IR heat sources to detect people or vehicles behind a tree, or had a little window in the upper right with footage from a drone showing you the overhead view you could call up so you can see around corners.

      I agree that not letting people see what their eyes are seeing but trying to turn it into a Mark Zuckerberg's metaverse nightmare is a non starter.

      The technology for this type of AR is not there yet. The battery needs are too great so either it can't last long enough to be useful or is so heavy it becomes more of a hindrance than an asset. The most important thing is it needs to 'fail transparent' so it just acts like a pair of glasses if the battery runs out or it is damaged. The last thing you need in a firefight is to have your vision go black, as would happen with VR.

      1. NightFox

        Re: AR wouldn't be such a problem

        "If you had completely transparent glasses which added a very small amount of additional context to what you are seeing, like pointing out IR heat sources to detect people or vehicles behind a tree"

        So, basically a HUD, which we've had in various forms for some 80-odd years?

    4. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      WTF?

      "$22 billion contract to build 120,000 custom HoloLens augmented/mixed reality headsets"????

      Is that correct? That's over $183k per headset.

  2. Dave 126

    Context from KGuttag.com

    " A few months back, Jake Bullock, a former U.S. Navy SEAL and CEO of Ravn, approached me for some consulting help with their display optics for a military AR headset. He and his CTO Dr. Blaine Bell had developed a system with working software for a military AR system. he flew out to show me a working prototype system with cameras, airsoft guns and off-the-shelf AR headsets. For their prototype, they found all the existing AR headsets wanting in terms of size, weight, comfort, fits, and brightness for outdoor use. Jake and his friends from the SEAL Teams had seen first-hand display technology bought by the military that was impractical to use in the field. Jake wanted to build something that they would want to use." - excerpt from Karl Guttag's AR blog about why he joined in 2018 a startup focused on AR for soldiers. It appears to support the findings reported in the article (although the article seemed to be about Hololens for medics rather than combatants)

    https://kguttag.com/2018/07/04/joining-ravn-as-chief-science-officer/

    Regardless of how well this startup fulfills its mission, it is likely off to a good start by asking what the user wants.

    In this case the user wants to aim their rifle without raising their head into a position where it could be shot by their adversary. A little unsporting perhaps, but perfectly understandable.

    1. Snapper

      Re: Context from KGuttag.com

      'In this case the user wants to aim their rifle without raising their head into a position where it could be shot by their adversary. A little unsporting perhaps, but perfectly understandable.'

      Then the rifle will have to be completely redesigned as well. To shoot even mildly accurately is a skill, usually taught over a period of training and then requiring constant practice.

      Good shooting occurs when the body is supporting the rifle as an extension of the arms and body, that's why it's generally taught that the prone body, with the rifle supported by both arms which have elbows resting on the ground and with the stock pressed firmly into the shoulder so that recoil is transmitted and absorbed through the shoulders, torso and legs in a straight line, is the best way of hitting what you are carefully aiming at.

      Any other system will have to take this requirement into account, and as the Mk 1 human body, both M and F variants, doesn't have 50cm high shoulders I foresee a slight issue.

  3. that one in the corner Silver badge

    cybersickness

    Really, Thomas.

    Just because that report's authors want to use a word like that, there is no need to repeat it. You could at least have put it in quotes!

    Please only use that word to refer to the result from getting a bite from a cybermat.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    US DOD project not going well?

    Didn't see that one coming!

    Having worked on several projects involving the DOD, including IVAS, I'm not surprised. Glad to have hung up my security clearance and moved on.

  5. trevorde Silver badge

    Should've chosen

    Magic Leap

    https://www.theregister.com/2019/12/11/magic_leap_ar_business/

  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Joke

    "potential for nausea and disorientation. "

    That's a feature, not a bug. :-)

    At least it will be when MS newly created "Non Lethal Weapons Division" rolls out it's first product.

    Just to clarify the terminology here AR is Augmented Reality, which IIRC is what military NVG do as well. The actual lenses are above the soldiers eyse.

    Would "Head up display for grunts" be a bit more understandable?

  7. Grunchy Silver badge

    Telepresence

    I think the future of warfare is "telepresence," the ability to deploy robots to conduct attack remotely. Just look at Ukrainians and their killer drones, and I understand that by-and-large they are piloted with "first person" headsets. (Not VR, not AR).

    The killer drones are also extremely tame, they wouldn't be competitive whatsoever on "drone racing league," for example.

    (The whole point of artillery is to be able to shoot your enemies without having to be in the same neighborhood. ICBM, to shoot them without even being on the same land mass!)

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Telepresence

      "The killer drones are also extremely tame, they wouldn't be competitive whatsoever on "drone racing league," for example."

      Killer drones need to loiter and have the capacity to get to where they are needed. Drone racers are stripped of all excess weight and the battery has just enough capacity to run the race before it falls out of the sky. You'd not use an F1 racing car for a military mission! :-)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Putting HoloLens before the horse.

    In March, 2021, the US Army awarded a $22 billion contract to build 120,000 custom HoloLens augmented/mixed reality headsets.

    That announcement sure made it sound like those devices were already well tested for ergonomic and battle readiness and worth every penny of $183,333 apiece.

    But in fact it was just some retired military brass who fell into into high paying consulting roles at MS exercising their patriotic connections.

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