Virtual reality isn't just for video games or making Skype calls in space. There's a good chance the tech could help soldiers in real wars too. Last month, at the Arms and Security trade show in Kiev, Ukraine, defense companies gathered to peddle their wares. Amid the new guns and drones, one company caused a minor stir by finding a new use for Microsoft's HoloLens.
Ukraine has been fighting a bloody war against Russian backed separatists since 2014. Its military is looking for anything that might give it the advantage on the battlefield. Enter LimpidArmor, a Ukrainian defense company with a fancy new helmet for tank drivers it thinks could help
LimpidArmor calls its helmet the Circular Review System (CRS). It's a helmet outfitted with a Microsoft HoloLens and hooked to cameras on the tank's body. The cameras come with the system so the crew can put them wherever they need.
It's a great idea because driving a tank sucks. The metal beasts are stuffy, crowded, and loud. It's hard to maintain battlefield awareness. Worse, tanks crews rely on slits in the armor or rudimentary black and white cameras to watch the road and hit their targets. CRS would change that.
The system comes with a HoloLens equipped helmet, a box of cameras, and some proprietary software. The crew places the thermal and optic cameras on the body of the tank as they see fit and the software feeds the images to the HoloLens.
Even better, LimpidArmor's software allows the viewer to mark targets, highlight enemies, and track targets. They also claim the software allows users to pull in outside video feeds from drones and other sources.
The helmet could be a game changer on the battlefield. Forget the cameras on the outside, tank drivers could use drones or the helmet cameras of forward scouts to navigate conflict zones.
America's new F-35 jet uses a similar system to give pilots a virtual view of the battlefield through their helmets, but the cost difference is insane. Each F-35 helmet costs around $400,000 while anyone can buy a HoloLens from Microsoft for $3,000.