The Australian Air Force and Saab Australia are trialing the Microsoft HoloLens augmented reality headset as the Australian military evolves into a “fifth-generation fighting force.”
Saab and Australia’s Defense Science and Technology Group demonstrated the Microsoft HoloLens to 50 military personnel on October 2016, showcasing how the headset can offer augmented reality vision (ARV) to assist in strategy, threat management and training, according to a Royal Australian Air Force press release.
Australian Air Force Chief Leo Davies said military communications, visualizations and training will be “heavily influenced” by AR tech.
“Augmented reality technology is evolving and this demonstration aims to increase awareness and interest in how ARV can be adapted and used for future Defence applications — either for planning or training,” Davies said, according to the press release.
Saab’s mixed reality applications program lead, Inger Lawes, praised AR’s potential to improve military training exercises.
“In the training environment, it allows both trainers and trainees to share a visually rich interactive experience where the real world can be overlaid with digital imagery and information in the form of holograms,” Lawes said, according to the press release.
And military scientist Kevin McDonald said the HoloLens’ AR tech could help Australian soldiers better respond to threats.
“Specifically the scenario and simulations explored today show the utility this technology can have on our decision making models and behaviour in certain situations, and how they can shape and aid our responses to threats,” McDonald said, according to the press release.
The adoption of the HoloLens is part of a greater plan — known as Plan Jericho — to technologically transform the Australian military into a “fifth-generation fighting force.”
Plan Jericho Director Pete Mitchell said it was crucial the military investigated the applications of AR because the technology will “grow exponentially” as it becomes more mainstream.
“ARV is a rapidly emerging technology with possible applications in fields as diverse and far ranging as medical science, research, chemistry, training, education and remote industry application – to name just a few possibilities,” Mitchell said, according to the press release.
Outside of the air force, the Australian Army is looking into applications for AR and virtual reality, including trialing an AR headset called the ARC4.
But Australia doesn’t have the only military interested in the HoloLens. As VRScout previously reported, the Ukrainian military is also testing the headset for battle.
In March 2016, Microsoft added Saab to its growing list of companies that are building enterprise-level applications for its AR headset. Dean Rosenfield, managing director of Saab Australia, said last year the company was exploring military uses for the headset.
“Our Training and Simulation team see the huge potential for Microsoft Hololens and are already working on a range of civil and military applications in training, simulation and education,” Rosenfield said, according to a Saab Australia press release.
Saab’s HoloLens Applications Studio at its Adelaide, Australia headquarters is also investigating how the headset can transform health, emergency services and infrastructure.
VRScout reached out to Saab Australia for an update on the joint Australian Air Force HoloLens program, but a spokesperson did not provide any new information.