A while back I wrote a piece about the US Army’s overbudget and wildly impractical Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS. It was called “More Garbage to Carry,” and I meant what I said when I named the article. Compare the image below to the sleek glasses above.
WTF is up with the Army thinking about fielding a useless piece of crap like the Ranger above is trying to use? The IVAS is a soldier’s nightmare. Bulky, claustrophobic, prone to fail, and overly complicated. As a bonus, the IVAS features software by Microsoft, because we all know how reliable and user-friendly that is, of course.
Get real. The Army should cut its losses now and get something like the Xiaomi AR glasses. Here’s an article listing the capabilities of this upcoming off-the-shelf unit. I understand that Xiaomi is based in China, and there may be some issues with sourcing from the PRC.
Fine. The USG should buy a dozen pairs and shamelessly copy them and add a few extra features- this is what companies based in China do with our IP all the time; turnabout is fair play, right?
When I think of daily soldier activities, I can picture doing them with the Xiaomi units.
Things like long movements to contact. Raids. Ambushes. Climbing mountains. Sitting long, boring, and dangerous guard duties at night while struggling to stay awake. Walking through some fire-lit village.
The IVAS would suck for each and every task I just listed.
The Xiaomi AR glasses would not suck, and you could use Android software, which many soldiers would already be intimately familiar with. Of course, I would opt for OS, but hey, you can’t have everything.
Without much tweaking, the Xiaomi units could have NVGs or thermals. They can easily track soldiers much as smart phones already do with equipment- just give everyone a version of an Air Tag. Leaders could use these things to direct the battlespace and communicate. Drone feeds could give clear recon to all combatants in an instant, and be controlled by them, as well.
The Xiaomi units could be a real force multiplier in ways that the stupid IVAS will never be.
Of course, the Microsoft people would squeal like pigs if the Army just dropped the IVAS. So what?
Also, US Ordnance has always struggled with “Not Invented Here” syndrome. This is why our guys went to Vietnam with the outdated M-14 and had their asses handed to them by the AK-47.
Modern warfare happens at the speed of social media and flitting drones. We can no longer afford sclerotic logistics and blinkered thinking.
If the Chinese are making these amazing glasses, I say steal them.
All’s fair in love and war.