The US military finally tried out Microsoft's much-delayed, very expensive augmented reality goggles during a recent Army test — and per an Insider report, the company's tech failed pretty spectacularly.
According to the report, the Army's Integrated Visual Augmented System (IVAS) device failed four out of six "evaluation events" in its recent "operational demo," according to a source at Microsoft.
For a contract worth nearly $22 billion dollars, those are some dismal results.
Soldiers allegedly found the goggles to have some fatal flaws.
"The devices would have gotten us killed," one of the headset's testers said in an excerpt of an Army report dictated to Insider, referring to the fact that the goggles generate light that's visible from thousands of feet away — essentially turning wearers into glowing enemy targets.
Beyond giving away the positions of soldiers, the report also found that soldiers complained that the device was uncomfortable and heavy, limiting their movement and even cutting off their peripheral vision.
Surprisingly, despite these damning claims, the Army is maintaining that the devices were actually a success.
"The emerging results indicate that the program achieved success in most of the Army evaluation criteria," brigadier general Christopher Schneider told Insider in a statement, very much contradicting the results revealed by the leaked report.
"However," he continued, "the results also identified areas where IVAS fell short and needs additional improvements, which the Army will address."
We get it — most of us have had bad cases of buyer's remorse, too. Most impulse buys, however, don't come with a multibillion-dollar price tag.
Hopefully, Microsoft and the military can figure it out — although with the Microsoft mixed reality division's recent history in mind, we won't hold our breath.
READ MORE: 'The devices would have gotten us killed.' Microsoft's military smart goggles failed four of six elements during a recent test, internal Army report says
The post Microsoft's AR Headset Was a Complete Disaster During a Military Test appeared first on Futurism.
Microsoft’s hi-tech headsets being tested by the Army have left soldiers feeling sick and have flaws that “would have gotten us killed,” according to published reports.
The “HoloLens” headset, designed to give soldiers a “heads-up display” similar to a fighter pilot, has caused more than 80% of soldiers testing the augmented reality goggles to report feeling nauseous, getting headaches or suffering eyestrain, according to a US Army report that Bloomberg and Business Insider claims to have obtained.
Army brass has also reportedly warned that the HoloLens emits a glow that could give away a soldier’s position on the battlefield. It also limits a soldier’s field of view and is too bulky for easy transport, according to the report.
One soldier who used the goggles during a “recent” field test reportedly said: “The devices would have gotten us killed.”
The Defense Department handed Microsoft a 10-year, $21.88 billion contract for the gear in March, but has put its initial order for 5,000 headsets on hold to allow Microsoft to “correct deficiencies.”
“The system is still experiencing too many failures of essential functions,” said Nickolas Guertin, the testing director for the DoD, in a summary of the product’s initial tests.
Dubbed the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) by the Department of Defense, the AR headsets are supposed to let commanders project information onto a visor in front of a soldier’s face. They would also provide night vision and “heightened situational awareness,” according to Microsoft.
Guertin demanded Microsoft Excellerate soldiers’ discomfort and fix the possible life-threatening flaws.
Lawmakers are closely assessing the testing to decide whether to approve the $424.2 million the Army proposed to spend on the program this fiscal year, Bloomberg reported.
The 10-year contract calls for the production of 120,000 headsets.
“Our close collaboration with the Army has enabled us to quickly build” and modify the device “to develop a transformational platform that will deliver enhanced soldier safety and effectiveness,” Microsoft said in a statement. “We are moving forward with the production and delivery of the initial set of devices.”
I’ve long been a fan of Microsoft’s Surface devices, thanks to their clean design, lack of bloatware and excellent keyboards. While it doesn't transform, the Surface Laptop won me over by providing a superb slim machine with an excellent Alcantara- waddled keyboard, great Precision trackpad, a responsive touchscreen and Windows Hello integration. But I feel Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 is destined to let me down.
The Surface Laptop 2 I had to test back in 2018 took me through multiple events and trips, allowing me to file copy at speed and just get all manner of tasks done without annoying bundled software or performance issues getting in the way. But laptops have evolved a lot since then, with super slim bezels and interesting designs such as the trackpad-less Dell XPS 13 Plus or the notched display of the MacBook Air M2 (my current go-to laptop).
So after the Surface Laptop 3 and Surface Laptop 4 pretty much stuck with the design of the original Surface Laptop, I had my fingers crossed for something different with the fifth-gen machine.
But my hopes were dashed.
The Surface Laptop 5 looks pretty much identical to its predecessor, and the laptop before it, and the laptop before it, and the laptop before it… sigh.
While I was hoping for a new display drawing inspiration from Dell’s InfinityEdge, my eyes were greeted by the PixelSense display in the familiar grip of some chunky bezels.
I find this deeply frustrating as once again Microsoft has popped a 13.5-inch screen into a laptop that I’m sure could fit a 14-inch panel. And for 2022 I think such bezels are unacceptable; simply look at our selection of best laptops and you’ll see precious few of them have notable bezels — the MacBook Pro M2 being a notable exception.
What’s annoying here is when you look at the inventive design of the Surface Laptop Studio, it’s clear Microsoft can be inventive with its device design. So I don’t get why it’s not pushed things further with the Surface Laptop 5.
Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, as Microsoft has dragged its heels before with the Surface Laptop; an Intel representative told me in 2019 that it’s baffling why Microsoft didn't give the Surface Laptop 3 a Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port, as the Intel chip the laptop used supported that connectivity standard.
Add into the mix that the Surface Laptop 5 doesn't get the neural processing unit the Surface Pro 9 has via its SQ3 processor powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon, and it feels like Microsoft has given up a bit with the Surface Laptop.
Talking to senior computing editor Alex Wawro, we came to the conclusion that Microsoft seems to have missed an opportunity to set the Windows 11 laptop standard for others to follow. That was something I felt Redmond’s finest managed to do with the Surface Laptop 2 and thus saw the likes of Dell refine the XPS 13 and 15 further. But now it looks like Microsoft isn't really interested in standard laptops.
Maybe spending some time with the Surface Laptop 5 could change my mind. But I’m not convinced by that. And with how impressive I’ve found the MacBook Air M2, inside and out, I feel like Microsoft will have to do something special to win back my affection for its Surface products. Here’s hoping 2023 surfaces something special for the Surfaces.
Only on the wrong side
Microsoft and the US Army are continuing to explore how to make mixed reality an aid rather than a hindrance for soldiers after tests showed that soldiers taking them into battle felt sick and were more vulnerable to enemy forces.
A US Army report on a "recent" field test dictated to it by an unnamed employee included a soldier who tested the tech saying, "The devices would have gotten us killed."
Apparently, this was not because soldiers were feeling sick but because at night the HoloLens lit up like a torch and was visible from hundreds of meters away.
In addition to this, US soldiers reported experiencing nausea, headaches, and strained eyes, which could all affect real-life missions. Most started feeling ill after three hours.
The solider discomfort that sounds similar to what a lot of consumers complain about when getting used to a head-mounted display (HMD): the weight of the hardware limiting movement and a limited field of view.
A Microsoft employee briefed about the event said the HMD failed four out of six "operational demo" evaluations.
Nickolas Guertin, director of Operation Test and Evaluation for the US Army, said in the summary of the US Army's report that the goggles need improvements around field of vision, low-light sensors, and display clarity and even claimed that some essential functions didn't work reliably.
But it wasn't all thumbs-down. The report summary found that the average time between downtime decreased and that the latest updates yielded "enhanced navigation and coordination of unit movements.
Microsoft's HoloLens headsets for the US Army have some teething troubles. Bloomberg and Insider say a recent unclassified report reveals the current Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) iteration is creating problems for soldiers in tests. Some testers suffered nausea, headaches and eyestrain while using the augmented reality goggles. Others were concerned about bulk, a limited field of view and a display glow that could reveal a soldier's position even at long distances.
A Microsoft worker talking to Insider claimed IVAS failed four out of six elements in one test. The Defense Department's Operational Test and Evaluation Director, Nickolas Guertin, also said there were still too many failures for essential features. Soldier acceptance is still low, according to the report.
The tests are part of a "Soldier Touch Point" program that helps the Army collect real-world feedback and help Microsoft refine the customized HoloLens gear. Ideally, the headsets will provide crucial battlefield information and night vision to infantry.
The military appears to be aware of and addressing issues. In a statement to Insider, Brigadier General Christopher Schneider said IVAS was successful in "most" criteria, but that there were areas where it "fell short" and would receive improvements. Army assistant acquisition secretary Doug Bush cleared the acceptance of an initial batch of 5,000 HoloLens units in August, but that the armed forces branch was modifying its plans to "correct deficiencies." Microsoft told Bloomberg it still saw IVAS as a "transformational platform" and was moving ahead with delivery for the initial headsets.
The findings don't necessarily mean the existing IVAS design is deeply flawed. However, they add to a number of difficulties stemming from the 10-year, $21.9 billion contract to supply 120,000 devices. The project created an uproar at Microsoft, where employees objected to working on 'weapons.' The Army also delayed the rollout late last year to allow for more development time. It may take a while longer before the technology is ready for combat.
Microsoft and the US Army are continuing to explore how to make mixed reality an aid rather than a hindrance for soldiers. A US Army report that Bloomberg and Business Insider claim to have accessed indicates that Microsoft's HoloLens-based headsets, during testing, made soldiers feel physically ill and more vulnerable to harm.
Insider said an excerpt of a US Army report on a "recent" field test dictated to it by an unnamed employee included a soldier who tested the tech saying, "The devices would have gotten us killed."
This was reportedly in relation to the light that emits from mixed reality headsets like the HoloLens.
"Criticisms, according to the employee who dictated to Insider excerpts of this report, included that the device's glow from the display was visible from hundreds of meters away, which could give away the position of the wearer," Insider reported on Tuesday.
Bloomberg said it accessed a summary made by the Pentagon's testing office of a 79-page report detailing a field test with the HoloLens-like headsets that occurred in May and June. In it, US soldiers reported experiencing nausea, headaches, and strained eyes, which could all affect real-life missions. Neither Bloomberg nor Insider specified if these experiences represented the majority.
However, Bloomberg reported that among those who experienced "mission-affecting physical impairments," 80 percent started feeling ill in under three hours.
Insider also reported solider discomfort that sounds similar to what a lot of consumers complain about when getting used to a head-mounted display (HMD): the weight of the hardware limiting movement and a limited field of view. But while concern around these issues can be deterrents to potential buyers of gaming and entertainment gadgets, like the Quest Pro, they can be the difference between life and death for members of the military.
Insider cited an anonymous "Microsoft employee briefed about the event," who said the HMD failed four out of six "operational demo" evaluations.
According to Bloomberg, Nickolas Guertin, director of Operation Test and Evaluation for the US Army, said in the summary of the US Army's report that the goggles need improvements around field of vision, low-light sensors, and display clarity and even claimed that some essential functions didn't work reliably.
But it wasn't all thumbs-down. The report summary found that the average time between downtime decreased and that the latest updates yielded "enhanced navigation and coordination of unit movements," according to Guertin, per Bloomberg.
The US Army has been familiar with Microsoft's HoloLens mixed reality tech for years. It started testing prototypes in 2017, four years before the US Army announced a historic, 10-year contract with Microsoft for 120,000 HoloLens-based headsets. At the time, the Army said the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) would "deliver next-generation night vision and situational awareness capabilities" for close combat and also would be used for training. The Army anticipated improvements for soldiers in "situational awareness, target engagement, and informed decision-making."
Microsoft's deal, said to be worth $21.9 billion, represents the public sector's largest mixed reality deal ever, so both parties have strong reason to get it right. In a statement to Bloomberg, Microsoft said it has quickly built and modified the IVAS gear to "deliver enhanced soldier safety and effectiveness" and that the company is "moving forward with the production and delivery of the initial set” of headsets.
But just like off the battlefield, the emerging technology is struggling to prove its value-add. According to Bloomberg, the summary of the Army's testing said acceptance of the headsets "remains low" among soldiers, who feel the headsets fail to "contribute to their ability to complete their mission." Bloomberg noted that the May-June field test was the fifth Soldier Touch Point Test for IVAS feedback.
In the summary of the report accessed by Bloomberg, Guertin reportedly advised that the US Army "prioritize improvements" on the technology.
In a statement to Insider, Doug Bush, the Army’s assistant secretary for acquisition, said the military branch is tweaking the IVAS program's schedule "to allow time to develop solutions to the issues identified."
Cybercriminals have perfected their ability to craft special email phishing attacks to bypass Microsoft email defenses, according to a study by Avanan, a Check Point company.
Considering Microsoft 365 as a crucial initial entry point for many organizations, attackers design and test each phishing attack to ensure it bypasses Microsoft’s default security defenses.
Avanan clarified that Microsoft’s failure to stop email threats was not because its email security features had deteriorated but because hackers had become better and faster at designing evasive attacks.
The email security platform analyzed three million emails received by its customers who use the tool as the last line of defense against threats that bypass Microsoft’s default security tools.
Avanan found that Microsoft email security tools allowed nearly a fifth (18.8%) of phishing messages to reach their targets.
According to the study, Microsoft Exchange Online Protection (EOP) and Defender’s ability to stop email phishing attacks dropped by 74% from 2020, when the failure rate was just 10.8%.
However, the miss rate increased to 42% when cybercriminals crafted special email phishing attacks against the targets’ finances, for example, fake invoices and Bitcoin transfers.
Microsoft Defender also missed 22% of brand impersonation attacks, 21% of credential harvesting attempts, and 12% of social engineering attacks.
Microsoft’s detection rate further decreased for larger organizations, with 50-70% of phishing emails reaching their targets’ inboxes. Conversely, Avanan’s previous research had found that the detection rate did not correlate with the organization’s size in 2020, with some larger companies recording a miss rate of 2.6%.
Avanan highlighted one large organization with over 53,000 employees where the IT staff mitigated just 59 of 910 phishing messages, representing a meager 7%. The company said it requires 16 full-time employees to address user-reported email phishing attacks. Avanan also found that manually responding to security issues takes 23% of the staff’s time.
Additionally, the researchers found an organization spending 2,500 hours or 104 days responding to user-reported phishing attempts. Subsequently, the time drain undermined other priorities and caused tech and security employees’ burnout.
The study by the email security platform found that Microsoft Defender sends 7% of phishing emails to the Junk folder.
Sending detections to the Junk folder risks employees accessing them through “dumpster diving.” Many organizations preferred sending flagged messages to the junk folder to avoid blocking legitimate emails.
“End-users become accustomed to dumpster diving in the Junk folder for legitimate messages.” the researchers said. “Users may act on a phishing email by mistake with many emails to root through in the junk folder with no distinction between treasure and trash.”
However, Microsoft succeeded in other areas, such as stopping business email compromise (BEC) messages at 93% and malware attachments at the rate of 90%.
The researchers stated that most email phishing attacks targeted Microsoft. Although the tech giant was losing the fight in some areas, the reduced effectiveness was not a referendum on its security practices.
“This represents not a decline in Microsoft effectiveness but rather an increase in targeted attacks designed directly to bypass Microsoft. Hackers, in other words, have stepped up their game.”
Hackers use tactics such as avoiding malicious link sources by leveraging legitimate services, masking URLs, and avoiding attachments to bypass anti-phishing defenses.
Avanan researchers predicted that attackers would continue inventing ways to bypass default email security features and additional layers.
Third-party developers had news in store about Microsoft Flight Simulator add-ons including a relevant aircraft and airport.
Third-party developers had news in store about Microsoft Flight Simulator add-ons including a relevant aircraft and airport.
As usual, this is very much work-in-progress, so there are plenty of elements still to be worked on.
We even get a small video showing the animated air conditioning models in action.
You can check them out in the gallery below.
If you’d like to read more about Microsoft Flight Simulator add-ons, you can enjoy our recent reviews of the Twin Otter, Auckland International Airport, Skiathos Airport, Athens International Airport, Bergamo Orio al Serio Airport, Amami Airport, Bristol Airport, Marrakech Menara Airport, Great Britain Central, Tehran Imam Khomeini Airport, Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport, Shanghai Pudong Airport, Kraków Airport, Fukuoka City & Airport, Fort Lauderdale Airport, Chongqing City & Airport, Manila Airport, Santiago Airport, the Frankfurt City Pack, Key West Airport, the Okavango Delta, Bali Airport, London Oxford Airport, Berlin Brandenburg Airport, the CRJ 550/700, the PA-28R Arrow III, Kristiansand Airport, Macau City & Airport, Bonaire Flamingo Airport, Milano Linate Airport, the Singapore City Pack, Tokyo Narita Airport, Yao Airport, the F-15 Eagle, the Paris City Pack, Greater Moncton Airport, Tweed New Haven Airport, Santorini Airport, Sydney Airport, Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, Reggio Calabria Airport, Bastia Poretta Airport, Munich Airport, Paris Orly Airport, Newcastle International Airport, Sankt Johann Airfield, Dublin International Airport, and Seoul City Wow. We also have a beta preview of Singapore Changi airport.
If you want to learn more about the game itself, you can read our review which will tell you everything you need to know about Asobo Studio’s game.
In June 2021, Microsoft announced that it would be providing its HoloLens headsets in “high-tech headsets” for Army soldiers. The announcement was the result of a two-year process that had included “a series of weeklong mini boot camps” for Microsoft engineers at a military base in North Carolina.
“Microsoft worked closely with the Army in an integrated team from the start to better understand its needs and goals for the project,” Microsoft said at the time in a blog post. “Soldiers came to Microsoft’s industrial design and software labs at the company’s Redmond, Washington, campus to test various prototypes and provide feedback, which was then used to develop the next version of the device.” The rollout was later delayed until 2022.
Now, there are reports of trouble with the devices.
Bloomberg News reported Thursday that soldiers using the goggles reported “mission-affecting physical impairments,” including “headaches, eyestrain, and nausea.” The report cited a Pentagon report from its testing office.
That report found that more than 80 percent of soldiers who had expressed discomfort developed it after less than three hours.
The author of the report did add that the Army should “prioritize improvements” before the devices are deployed further.
The devices offer the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), a “heads-up display” reminiscent of Hollywood movies such as “The Terminator” and “Iron Man.” The Army, per Bloomberg, will spend $21.9 billion on the project over a decade-long period if all options are exercised. The Army is scheduled to spend $424.2 million in this fiscal year, which lawmakers will soon weigh in on.
“Our close collaboration with the Army has enabled us to quickly build” the devices, Microsoft said in a statement to Bloomberg. They are also working toward a way to “develop a transformational platform that will deliver enhanced soldier safety and effectiveness. We are moving forward with the production and delivery of the initial set.” Microsoft was not made aware of the Pentagon report in advance, the Bloomberg piece said.
Earlier this week, despite Microsoft having its own headset product, the company announced a collaboration with Meta, related to the company formerly known as Facebook’s new Meta Quest Pro device.
“This new partnership brings Microsoft’s popular productivity tools to Meta’s virtual reality devices, giving people even more flexibility in how they collaborate and get work done,” Meta said in their announcement earlier this week. Points of collaboration include “immersive meeting experiences” in Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Windows 365 for Meta Quest, as well as Teams/Workrooms integration, Meta Avatars in Teams, and more. All will roll out over the coming months, the companies said.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.