As a commercial and potentially consumer product, one might assume it very unlikely to see the Microsoft HoloLens in the military marketplace. And that assumption would be completely wrong. One company from the Ukraine is currently working on using the mixed reality head-mounted computer for 360-degree vision inside armored tanks.
If a tank crew could see the entire battlefield there are in, they would likely have a better chance of accomplishing their mission and avoiding damage. Tanks are large, enclosed, metal shells, and visibility is a serious concern since each portal that is made for vision potentially weakens the vehicle and endangers the crew within.
Enter Ukraine's LimpidArmor and their Circular Review System that integrates the Microsoft HoloLens into tank crew helmets.
A series of different types of cameras are placed around the exterior of the armored vehicle, and all the feeds are sent to each HoloLens-equipped helmet which then stitches all of the feeds together with LimpidArmor's proprietary software. The crew will then have 360-degrees of vision at 300 meters in both optical and thermal modes, effectively letting them see through the tank without ever opening a hatch and putting themselves in danger.
Other features of this head-mounted system, according to the company's Facebook page are streaming video without delay, automatic target tracking, a "look-lock-launch" system that will presumedly slave exterior weapons to the helmet, as well as the ability to highlight friendlies and identify enemy positions.
All of these features could amount to a far more precise use of what is often a rough, inaccurate, and slow military tool. The more accurate a tool of this sort is, the less overall damage has to be dealt to complete their mission.
The idea is great in theory, but the product still needs field-testing. How often will the outside cameras need cleaned? Will the cameras themselves become enemy targets to reduce the tank crew's visibility? And as good as the quality of the HoloLens is, it is not something I would call ruggedized. So we will see.
There is currently another defense project based on getting 360-degree see-through views from inside of tanks, called IronVision, from Elbit Systems. However, their technology is being built from the ground up and isn't making use of a potential consumer product that service members themselves could one day own on their own for personal use.
According to MSPoweruser, "The developers are also looking at civilian versions such as for airline pilots, large industrial vehicles, and drone operators."
360 degrees of vision inside a tank is something that has only been seen in video games and movies up to this point, and this is just one of many instances in recent years of reality catching up to science fiction. Bring it on, I say. We live in very exciting times!
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