Simulated training can help soldiers and sailors learn how to use their weapons safely, but simulations can sometimes lack the stressful environment of a real firefight.
That's why the US Navy has developed a more realistic augmented reality simulator that runs on the Microsoft HoloLens.
Dubbed the Weapons Augmented Reality Scoring System (WARSS), the program simulates live-fire exercises by displaying 3D imagery of opposing forces in the user's field of view through the HoloLens. The system also displays a scoreboard that tallies shots fired, shots landed, and the resulting score based on a percentage of hits versus misses.
So instead of firing blanks at real targets, soldiers can fire live ammunition at virtual targets to get a more realistic feeling of the battlefield.
"When you focus on just simulated training, your risk equation is different. It can help you learn how to use the weapons, it can help you think about the environment," said Captain Steve Murray, major program manager for surface ship readiness at the Naval Sea Systems Command. "When you add all that stress in, you need to build a realistic environment to ensure you get the result you want when you're actually called to fight."
In addition, WARSS can mirror the soldier's video feed on traditional displays or laptops as well as via remote web connection, a dynamic that allows commanding officers to observe the action remotely.
In recent years, the HoloLens has become the favored AR wearable for military operations worldwide, with the British Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force among the armed forces adopting Microsoft's headset.
Last year, Microsoft even beat out Magic Leap in a head-to-head competition for a $480 million contract to supply AR headsets to the US Army.
However, that advantage isn't guaranteed forever, as current deployments are limited to either command centers (away from battle lines), or training exercises. Eventually, military customers will seek AR hardware that can enter the field of battle, in which case we can probably expect Microsoft to deliver a less bulky version of the HoloLens for just that purpose.