Microsoft's HoloLens headsets are giving US Army testers nausea

The augmented reality hardware can be useful, but has its problems.

Eric Bartelt/US Army

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.