August 15, 2016
Original Article Published on Bloomberg.com
If Pokemon Go achieved one thing, it was showing the world that augmented reality technologies are ready for the mainstream. Israel’s military thinks AR is ready for another use: battlefield training.
The Israeli army’s C2 Systems Department recently purchased two HoloLens glasses from Microsoft Corp. The commander of the head programming department, Major Rotem Bashi, intends to develop the technology to improve battlefield strategy and train field personnel. And quickly: He intends for HoloLens to be used on active duty within months.
“We connect all kinds of technologies and innovative concepts that come from the civilian world and try to adapt them as quickly as possible to military use,” Bashi said.
HoloLens is Microsoft’s bid to lead in the augmented reality market, in which 3D images are blended with the user’s real-life surroundings. Unlike Pokemon Go, or some virtual reality applications for gaming and entertainment, Microsoft’s initial focus with HoloLens is mainly on corporate and academic uses — from medical schools looking at hologram cadavers to architectural firms tweaking building plans in 3D. The company started shipping orders for the $3,000 developer edition of the goggles in March.
At the army base outside Tel Aviv, a handful of developers in Bashi’s team created a software program in less than a month that allows commanders to manipulate military terrain models and intelligence data to monitor troop positioning from enemy vantage points. Battlefield maps are superimposed on top of the real terrain, streamed in via satellite, to create a blend that can be interacted with via sight, voice and hand gestures.
The unit is now finding ways to allow HoloLens-wearing medics to operate on wounded with simultaneous instruction from trained surgeons, and combat soldiers to fix equipment malfunctions. It’s far removed from hurling Pokeballs at Pidgeys and Rattatas in Pokemon Go, but based on similar principles.
Besides adapting the HoloLens to military life, Bashi’s unit is working on a product that will give headquarters an online report about a combatant’s physiological state in the field.