As Microsoft works toward fulfilling its $480 million contract to supply modified HoloLens 2 headsets to the US Army, Airbus is preparing to supply advanced augmented reality apps for the device.
On Thursday, the Airbus Defence and Space unit published a video demonstrating the capabilities of its Holographic Tactical Sandbox tool for augmented reality headsets.
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Designed to work with the Airbus Fortion TacticalC2 application, the software enables military officers and personnel to easily view 3D maps of battlefield locations in their physical space through head-mounted displays for mission planning or training exercises.
"Physical tactical sandboxes have been used to plan missions and train personnel since Roman times, but new technological innovations and the latest developments in augmented reality have created huge opportunities to design a tactical sandbox fit for 21st century military requirements," reads a statement on the company's detailing the software.
"This tool is a true game-changer for military operations, supporting the same ancestral process – whilst offering faster preparation, better and, ultimately, remote collective mission preparation, and an improved perception of the battlefield."
Using gesture inputs, users can rotate, annotate, manipulate, and interact with the maps, allowing them to view the terrain from various perspectives and identify tactical advantages in the field in advance of the real-world action. Moreover, remote networking capabilities can enable users outside of the base of operations to view the plans as if they were in the room.
Originally unveiled in January, the Holographic Tactical Sandbox is a product of the aircraft manufacturer's recent move into developing augmented reality applications for enterprise and government customers, as announced at the Paris Air Show in June.
While the demo video shows the original HoloLens, the second generation HoloLens, which Microsoft has already begun to showcase for its end users in the US Army, is the likely hardware target for Airbus. However, the company does not specify any particular AR headset in its profile on the software, so, conceivably, Airbus could sell the software to a military outfit that opts to use the Magic Leap One instead.
Nonetheless, for us civilians, the software is a fantastic realization of the types of augmented reality showcased in cosmic science fiction films over the past 40 years. Suddenly, the iconic scene where the Rebel Alliance maps out its attack on the Death Star in the original Star Wars as well as the various recent examples from the Marvel Cinematic Universe are no longer pipe dreams.