US soldiers who used Microsoft Corp’s new glasses in their latest field test suffered “mission-impairing physical impairments,” including headaches, eyestrain and nausea, according to an exercise summary compiled by the Pentagon’s testing office. .
More than 80% of those experiencing discomfort had symptoms after less than three hours wearing the custom version of Microsoft’s HoloLens glasses, said Nickolas Guertin, director of Operations Test and Evaluation, in a summary for Army and Department officials. defense. He said that the system is also experiencing too many failures in essential functions.
Problems found in the May and June tests were outlined in a 79-page report this month. The Army marked it “Controlled Unclassified Information” to prevent public distribution, but a summary was obtained by Bloomberg News.
Despite the device’s flaws, Guertin doesn’t consider it a lost cause. He recommended the Army “prioritize improvements” before widespread deployment to reduce “physical discomfort of users.” He said improvements are also needed in the goggles’ low-light sensors, screen clarity, field of view and unreliability of some essential features.
On the bright side: The latest model’s reliability has improved for a key metric: the mean time between failures that render the entire system inoperable, according to the report. Leaders and Soldiers also reported that the latest version “improved navigation and coordination of unit movements,” Guertin wrote.
Microsoft’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS, is expected to provide a “heads-up display” for US ground forces, similar to that of fighter pilots. It would allow commanders to project information onto a visor in front of a soldier’s face and include features such as night vision. The Army projects to spend up to $21.9 billion over a decade on eyewear, parts and support services if all options are exercised.
The test results will be closely scrutinized by lawmakers as they decide whether to approve the $424.2 million the Army has proposed spending on the program this fiscal year. House and Senate appropriations panels separately proposed deep cuts to the Army’s application pending the outcome of the tests.
One finding that may give members of Congress pause: Soldiers’ acceptance of the glasses “remains low” with them and their leaders saying they don’t “contribute to their ability to complete their mission.” The exercise represented the fifth test of the “Soldier Point of Contact” system, a widely praised Army initiative to get Soldier feedback early in the acquisition process.
Microsoft, which did not receive a copy of the test results, said in a statement that “our close collaboration with the military has allowed us to quickly build” and modify the device “to develop a transformative platform that will bring greater security and safety to users. soldiers”. effectiveness. We are moving forward with the production and delivery of the initial set of devices.
Doug Bush, the Army’s deputy secretary for acquisitions, said in a statement that the service “conducted a thorough operational evaluation” and “is fully aware” of the test office’s concerns. The Army is adjusting the program’s deployment and schedule “to allow time to develop solutions to identified problems,” he said.
He said the Army believes the finding that glasses cause “physical impairment” exaggerates that problem, but is seeking “significant improvements to address soldiers’ concerns regarding comfort and fit.”
In August, Bush authorized the Army to begin accepting some of the initial 5,000 sets of goggles produced but on hold, saying the service “is adjusting its deployment plan to allow time to correct deficiencies and also send units who focus on training. activities.”
Asked why the Army directed the evidence office to label the report “Controlled Unclassified Information,” Bush said the service “followed proper Defense Department guidance on classification.”