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The US Army Is Bringing ‘Tactical AR’ To The Battlefield

A new Ironman-like heads-up display could revolutionize modern warfare.

When it comes to surviving a firefight information is everything. That’s exactly why the United States military invests so much time and resources into equipping soldiers with state-of-the-art technology designed to keep them informed and updated when deployed in dangerous scenarios.

Now it appears as though the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center is taking a full step into the future by fitting soldiers with advanced augmented reality heads-up displays.

To be fair, the US Army has been using AR in combat for years in the form of simple, monochromatic displays fielded by select individuals. “Tactical Augmented Reality,” or TAR, takes the idea much further by providing high quality HD displays miniaturized to the size of a small eyepiece and capable of communicating large amounts of critical data in real-time.

The TAR system can effectively provide a soldier with advanced night vision, topographical information and shared vision between squad members. The futuristic display is also capable of providing the GPS locations of both friend and foe using automatic geo-registration to constantly update the geodetically-calibrated reference image needed for functional tracking with geo-positional satellites.

“Soldiers don’t have to look down at their GPS device,” said Staff Sgt. Ronald Geer, a counterterrorism non-commissioned officer at CERDEC’s Night Vision and Electronics Sensors Directorate, about TAR. “In fact, they no longer need a separate GPS device because with TAR, the image is in the eyepiece, which is mounted to the Soldier’s helmet in the same way NVG is mounted. So what they would see, he said, is the terrain in front of them, overlaid with a map.”

The functionality doesn’t end there however. According to Sgt. Geer, the TAR system also incorporates a tablet worn around the waist that connects wirelessly to both the AR eyepiece as well as a thermal sight mounted on their weapons.

“If a Soldier is pointing his or her weapon, the image of the target, plus other details like the distance to target, can be seen through the eyepiece,” says Geer. “The eyepiece even has a split screen, so for example, if the rifle is pointed rearward and the Soldier is looking forward, the image shows both views. Also, a Soldier behind a wall or other obstacle could lift the rifle over the wall and see through the sites via the heads-up display without exposing his or her head.”

CERDEC seems confident that the TAR system could provide soldiers with a much higher level of situational awareness and potentially save lives. Whatever the final result ends up being, it’s still thrilling to see an organization as well-funded and connected as the US military make such as strong commitment towards augmented reality. If there’s any group capable of pushing the boundaries of this potentially-limitless technology, it’s this one right here.

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