Honeywell and the US Army are testing virtual reality (VR) technology that could make it easier for soldiers to operate combat vehicles and give them more awareness on the battlefield, according to a Monday press release.

The system, which is being tested in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, was developed by Honeywell in partnership with DARPA, under its Ground X-Vehicle Technologies program, the release said. Using augmented reality (AR) and VR technologies in a helmet-mounted display, the system offers a clearer view of the operators surroundings than was previously available, especially in a closed-hatch vehicle environment.

The project is officially named the Ground X-Vehicle Technologies (GXV-T) Crew Station Augmentation Concept, the release said. And it combines with existing 360-degree awareness sensors to give operators even more context when driving.

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“The helmet-mounted vision system includes a range of forward-facing cameras that deliver imagery projected into the left and right eye of the user through a pair of holographic optical elements,” the release noted. This improves the depth of the images without making the wearer feel dizzy or sick. Other cameras can be used to provide additional angles of sight around the vehicle.

So far, the prototype has been tested at Camp Grayling in Michigan, the report said, and it will later be tested at Fort Stewart, Georgia. The US Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center (TARDEC) is behind the testing, according to the release.

The technology could eventually be used to improve the operation of robotic vehicles, or to help an operator control multiple vehicles at once, the release noted.

“We’re particularly looking forward to testing the limits of the vision technology in the prototype headset,” John Vala, Crew Augmentation Simulation and Test lead for TARDEC, said in the release. “With the inputs from various sensors and cameras outside the vehicle enabling this new capability, soldiers may potentially see more detail at greater distances without having to rely on the mirrored sights used today or leaving the protected confines of the vehicle.”

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • Honeywell has partnered with DARPA to develop a VR system for the US Army to improve the operation of combat vehicles.
  • AR and VR technologies can help combat vehicle operators remain safe in a closed-hatch environment while improving their field of view.