About the choice of augmented reality

RED 6, an American tech startup, has won a contract with the US Air Force to supply its augmented reality training system for its trainer aircraft over the next 12 months, according to sources at the Singapore Air Show. Several air forces from other countries at the show also showed great interest in RED 6’s products. RED 6, an Internet technology company founded in 2018, is an airborne Tactical Augmented Reality (ATARS) system that can be mounted directly on the helmet of a fighter pilot, generating training scenarios that directly simulate real combat conditions to improve pilot training. Founded with small business contracts from the U.S. military and tens of millions of dollars in venture capital, the company is a sort of military unicorn for augmented reality.

The success of RED 6 is reminiscent of Microsoft’s augmented reality military project, which nearly died last year. In 2018, the Army signed a contract with Microsoft to acquire its Integrated Visual Enhancement System (IVAS) to provide better training and combat information support to soldiers. The IVAS is deeply customized based on Microsoft’s commercial Hololens augmented reality system, which uses a head-mounted display integrated into a bulletproof helmet for night vision and object display. According to Microsoft, the system can generate simulated enemy images during daily training and project them onto a head-mounted display without affecting the soldiers’ ability to view the actual surroundings. The virtual images can be superimposed on real scenes to simulate various combat situations, such as soldiers training in an open field suddenly being attacked by enemy forces, or anti-tank missile operators attacking virtual images of tanks. In combat, the IVAS system can help soldiers identify targets and even create a perspective image of enemy or friendly forces through obstacles.

Although Microsoft’s system sounds like a technology that has already been used in a wide range of industrial and medical applications, the project has not gone smoothly. In March 2021, the U.S. Army ordered $373 million to buy 5,000 IVAS from Microsoft and planned to purchase 121,500 IVAS over the next 10 years, but announced it would withdraw from the IVAS program in October of the same year. There were two main reasons for the delay. On the one hand, the army partnership was opposed by Microsoft employees who protested the use of technology used in medical and industrial production for combat. On the other hand, the U.S. military to also IVAS technology and reliability of the system are not satisfied, that should be more fully test and evaluation, in order to find more defects and to improve the upgrade, the department of defense has also said that the test standard of IVAS system should be reassessed, and to be able to more accurately quantify out of the system on how to improve the effective role. All in all, Microsoft this contract now too many variables, and the U.S. army while the contract amount is large, the actual amount to account is only 40 million dollars, it is better to RED more than six from the air force to take the risk of investment, even if the project stops, the army of the loss is not big, so now the outside of the system, the Microsoft generally There is even a high probability that it will be suspended this year.

Judging by the companies behind the two projects, RED 6 was launched at a time when Microsoft already had letters of intent from the Army. One was a small startup, the other was an Internet giant. However, after more than three years of competition, RED 6 is now one of the hottest start-ups in the industry, and Microsoft’s project is at risk of sinking because of the difference in strategic positioning between the two products, in addition to the management system constraints of big company disease.

RED 6’s ATARS system focuses on air Force training and is positioned as an advanced product targeting an upscale user base, given the high cost of training pilots and the high risk of traditional tactical training. The ATARS system allows pilots to virtually fly aircraft in the air in high-risk subjects such as simulated combat, interception, ground attack or aerial refueling, with lower training costs and less risk. For example, when pilots practice aerial refueling, they do not have a real tanker to participate in, and they will not hit the refueling tube even if there is a misoperation. However, with the help of augmented reality technology, pilots can experience real aerial refueling visually and audiographed, which is not very different from the actual training effect. The cost of acquiring ATARS is a fraction of what it would cost to deploy real tankers for training, which is why the AIR Force is paying so freely.

Microsoft’s IVAS system is a low-end option for training soldiers in the Army, where the cost of training an individual soldier is a fraction of the cost of training a pilot. Historically, armies have been very conservative in the acquisition of infantry equipment, since the primary requirement in land warfare is reliability, not technology. In addition, augmented reality has not significantly improved the army’s training effectiveness. Even without virtual enemy imagery, the Army can complete training through physical combat. Infantry and armored vehicles have much lower operating costs than fighter aircraft, and there is no risk of crash on land. The IVAS system can also provide night vision and perspective with existing Army optical equipment, so the IVAS system does not significantly improve the army’s combat effectiveness. Microsoft’s technology was not to be sniped at, and the Army’s procurement ambitions were not to be sniped at until it was time to push through.

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