Farewell to the Sand Table?

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Soldiers have always built terrain models, or sand tables to visualize the battlefield. Instead, they will soon be using video feed from tiny drones for this purpose.

A new digital system will allow infantrymen to view 3D models of an attack objective through a sophisticated set of augmented reality glasses, the Microsoft-based Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS).

US Army modernization officials used the pocket-sized drones, which are part of the Soldier Borne Sensor program, to take video footage of a military operations in urban terrain (MOUT) training complex. Then they viewed the footage in IVAS, according to military.com.

The experimental high-tech glasses are designed to equip close-combat soldiers with a heads-up display that allows them to view tactical maps as well as their weapon-sight reticle.

So far, program officials have offered very broad descriptions of the Microsoft’s HoloLens technology, but details are slowly emerging. If successful, IVAS will likely replace bulky night vision goggles that have to be mounted on special helmet brackets.

Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, the commander of Program Executive Office Soldier said: “IVAS is comfortable to wear and will take a lot of pressure off your head and your neck for long-term missions.” The engineers working with industry developed extremely small thermal and low-light sensors that will be built into IVAS glasses. “We probably have the very best small-form factor thermal sensors that are going to go into the IVAS,” he said. 

IVAS is being designed to allow soldiers to use in synthetic training scenarios so soldiers can practice room-clearing and other tactical missions using realistic gaming technology.

The shortwave infrared will allow soldiers to scan the inside of any room and use it as a training area only they can see, Potts said.

In combat, soldiers will be able to use IVAS to view tactical information by simply glancing around the edges of the glasses, Potts said.