The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency began demonstrating the ULTRA-Vis, an augmented reality heads-up display system similar to what jet fighter pilots use while patrolling the skies.
The ULTRA-Vis, which means Urban Leader Tactical Response, Awareness & Visualization, is capable of showing data about the current location to the user, helping him or her identify friend from foe and the mission's targets even within the chaos of the battlefield.
The prototype was shown off at the DARPA Demo Day in the courtyard of the Pentagon. Unlike Google Glass, which projects images directly into the eye's iris, potentially causing eye strain, the ULTRA-Vis overlays the data over the user's natural field of vision through a holographic display.
The device is able to track the movements of the head of the user with installed motion sensors and the user's location with GPS. Fixed markers are displayed on top of the real world locations that the user sees, which do not go away if the user looks somewhere else and then looks back. These fixed markers are a perfect tool for soldiers, as they can mark their target and waypoints before their mission starts.
The best thing for the military about the ULTRA-Vis is that it is capable of displaying the troops' needed information without obstructing their vision, which is an essential requirement by the U.S. Army.
The data is superimposed "directly over your natural field of vision, without requiring you to look up at an eye-straining angle as with Google Glass or look down at a smartphone display as with the Army's Nett Warrior system. Nor does the display block your field of vision like the ill-fated monocle display on the Army's earlier Land Warrior," confirms Sydney Freedberg Jr. of Breaking Defense, who tested the prototype.
"The prototype was completed within the past several months. The breakthrough [was] the holographic wave guide" said Yiftach Eisenberg, ULTRA-Vis program manager.
"You can decide how much information or how little," said Eisenberg, from, "I want to see all the friendly forces within five kilometers" to "I want to see all friendly forces within 100 kilometers."
On top of the superimposed holographic display, users of the ULTRA-Vis can also use the device as a communication tool with their fellow soldiers, home base and other friendlies in the area such as air support. The device is also capable of showing video taken by deployed machine drones, allowing the user to see beyond what the naked eye can see.
The ULTRA-Vis prototype is nowhere near production ready, and it will probably undergo some changes before they are deployed for use by U.S. soldiers.