Welcome back Gators!
If you are unfamiliar with IVAS and you’ve been investing in MVIS, you’ve been living under a rock. The IVAS is a military augmented reality unit that combines various technologies with visual and audible capabilities to help soldiers and logistics on the battlefield. In this post, we will go over some of those capabilities as well as real examples of situations where some of these capabilities might have helped me and my unit when I was overseas. In doing so, you will likely come to an understanding on why this piece of technology is more than just a cool device for soldiers and why it is potentially revolutionary and disruptive to the very art of war. This could change battlefields as profoundly as gunpowder or Rome’s logistics once did.
A quick recap of my combat experience will give some context to my understanding and fascination with this device. I am a two-tour combat infantry veteran. I served in Iraq with the 1st Cavalry from 2004-2008 and received multiple awards for actions under fire. During my first tour I served with Bravo Company in 2/5 Cav in Sadr City and during the second I was with Alpha Company 1/12 Cav in the Diyala Province. Black Sunday, aka April 4th 2004…I was there.
What is IVAS?
First off, let us go over what IVAS is. IVAS is an augmented reality goggle system based upon the Microsoft HoloLens 2 and stands for Integrated Visual Augmentation System.
The goal is to make soldiers have capabilities like this:
Of course, we are talking about the helmet and not the powered armor. Though DARPA is probably working on the armor as we speak. I doubt MVIS is making MJLONIR armor for future SPARTAN soldiers.
The HL2, to date, is the only successful true multifunction AR system on the market. It is being used in engineering, medical fields, entertainment, and business. This is not only because of its own capabilities but also because of its unique ability to allow people from across the world to communicate and interact visually. Not only does this decrease travel costs for larger, world-spanning companies and teams, but it became a necessity due to social distancing and travel lockdown measures implemented by various governments and international authorities.
It is prudent to first discuss why this matters to MicroVision (MVIS). MVIS creates tiny mirrors and lasers that are used in various technologies. One is automotive and consumer LiDAR, which is an emerging sector with futuristic promises and seemingly unlimited uses. Autonomous driving, interactive projected displays, and perhaps interactive holograms one day. It enables a future more technologically advanced than George Lucas imagined…though we’ll never have a lightsaber due to LiDAR.
The other sector that these tiny MEMs mirrors and lasers unlock is AR. With the use of waveguides, AR systems and glasses are a modern marvel and a futuristic wonder. We know that MVIS is working on a glasses module thanks to a video produced and released last summer. While smart glasses and wearable technology is a hot topic in the tech sectors, they are not the topic of discussion here. Smart glasses will likely never have the same capabilities as a full-on goggle system due to the lack of room to mount other technologies and integrate them into one powerful, world-changing device. Personally, I believe they will be more like an Apple Watch on your face. While I love my Apple Watch, I have no desire to have my PI notifications pop up in my field of view while I am driving. I will leave the practical discussion of smart glasses to someone who is more knowledgeable on what companies envision for these wearables.
The HL2 and IVAS goggle system, however, is a different beast entirely. The HL2 has already begun to revolutionize several industries. Long-distance surgeries, engineering, and technical support have already become a thing of the present rather than cool ideas for the future. All thanks to Microsoft and MicroVision. And that revolutionary idea and disruptive technology are moving to the battlefield.
So what does IVAS do?
For this, I think it’s best to just directly quote the known capabilities:
- Head borne vision system (no helmet mount assembly, low profile, conformal goggle/visor system providing 24/7 squad situational awareness in all operating environments; see-thru, wide field of view binocular 3D display; integral ballistic, laser, and hearing protection with 3D sound field); provides a natural field of view for the user similar to current types of eye protection
- Day/Night Rapid Target Acquisition (RTA) from Family of Weapon Sights-Individual (FWS-I) and remote viewing from Family of Weapon Sights – Crew-Served (FWS-CS) More on this later
- Machine learning capabilities/Artificial Intelligence
- Synthetic Training Environment (STE) Squad Capability (One World Terrain, Training Simulation Software, Training Management Tools, and associated integration hardware)
- An Adaptive Squad Operating System
- Net Warrior 3.0/Tactical Assault Kit (TAK) Connectivity (operating on Secure but unclassified (SBU) portion of the Integrated Tactical Network (ITN) using current military radios; operation in see/shoot/move/navigate) More on this later
- Fused Day/Night Vision Capabilities for multiple sensor/imaging feeds
- Intra-soldier wireless (ISW) Connectivity (multi-point wireless) for on body soldier devices
- Squad Lethality Ratings/Metrics (real-time measure of squad & soldier performance; physiological feedback to include but not limited to concussions, heart rate, breathing rate, readiness)
- Mixed/Live Reality for combat training and rehearsals including navigation, targeting, phase line (symbology)
- Automatic or Aided Target Recognition (ATR) for relevant threats
- Government-Owned Soldier/Squad Architecture (collaboratively developed by Government and industry over 24 months with key interfaces across squad identified, developed, validated, implemented; tactical power architecture and management system)
- Modular open-source data, unclassified or perishable position, location, information (PLI) and stored in the cloud.Source: https://imgur.com/a/eiUe9Z0
For the typical investor, some of this stuff makes no sense. I’ll cover a few big ones quickly before we move on.
The remote viewing of weapons sights for individual rifles and crew-served weapons (heavy machine guns for example) is HUGE. This allows a soldier to point his weapon around the corner of a building, maintain cover and concealment, and engage an enemy without exposing himself to return fire. It does not take a rocket scientist to see how this is beneficial. The ability to do this is a game-changer and also prevents uncontrolled fire that could result in unintended collateral damage or injuries to non-combatants and infrastructure. For crew-served weapons, what immediately jumps to mind is the turret on top of a HMVEE or MRAP. I can tell you from personal experience that riding in the crow’s nest on top of a Hummer in a firefight is not a delightful position to be in. You instantly become the logical target for an enemy combatant and there have been many injuries sustained from vehicle-born crewmen operating a weapon in an exposed position.
The second item that jumps out as being an obvious improvement to soldier capabilities is the integration of day and night sights into one unit. This may seem like a small thing, but only if you have never been in the situation of trying to install NVG (night vision) onto your helmet while being shot at or running through a dark building with a flashlight on the end of your weapon. The option to immediately switch from standard vision (day sights) to an ambient light amplification device or a thermal detection device on the fly is, in itself, disruptive and revolutionary. There are situations where night vision performs better than FLIR and vice versa. Not one solider that I deployed with had this ability. Each and every one of us could have used it.
Lastly, the ability of commanders to see squad readiness in the form of physiological metrics is big. Soldiers, in an adrenaline-pumped state, will sometimes not realize that they have been shot or otherwise impacted by the horrors of war. Commanders and controllers watching this data could be a lifesaver in more ways than one. Knowing that Sergeant Joe is losing blood, has a rapidly increasing heartbeat, and a cognitive ability impairing concussion can get a medical response to him more expeditiously than waiting for someone around him to recognize that he is not looking as spiritedly as he did at the start of the mission and is leaking fluids from a gunshot.
These three capabilities stand out since, if I were still in the military, I’d likely be a field user. None of these harp on the augmented reality portion of this device. One is an optical projection of a weapon sight, one is an integration of day and night vision, and one is a soldier readiness monitor suite. What about the AR aspects? I can think of one experience, in particular, where this would have made my life much, much safer and another that would have saved the life of a dear friend.
Considering this was years ago and I’m not fluent in Arabic, I won’t pretend to remember how to spell the name of the town. I remember it sounded like “Al Hammer” but I doubt very seriously that’s how it shows up on a map. It was my second tour, so likely sometime in 2007. My platoon was on QRF (quick reaction force) in the Diyala Province. We expected an easy ‘off’ night, since QRF wasn’t often used for any major engagements at the time. We were wrong.
At about zero dark thirty (aka middle of the night) my platoon was told to suit up and respond to an incident in this little town. Special Forces personnel had managed to get a HMVEE stuck in a ditch and were being engaged. Why they were in a ditch is beyond me. My platoon was a mechanized infantry unit and we could bring a tad bit more heat to firefight than a few hummers with crew served weapons on top. Our chariot was the M2A3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle. 25mm main cannon, 7.62 coaxially mounted machine gun, thick metal armor with reactive armor plates, and TOW missiles (just in case). Along with that were a few very angry, grumpy infantrymen riding in the back who wished they could be back at their racks playing Tiger Woods Golf or Halo on Xbox.
On this particular mission, I was filling in for the gunner on the Bradley. He was on leave and I was a qualified gunner for the Bradley. I was pretty good at it too, qualifying 3rd in the battalion back at Fort Hood. We rolled out with two vehicles, about 8-10 dismounted infantry in the back, and an irritated attitude because none of us had saved our Halo game.
As we rolled into town, we were engaged by some intelligent people who thought their AK-47 was the appropriate tool to engage what, is essentially, a freaking tank. They were quickly sent to judgment day and we progressed further into town. I was the second track, at first. I do not recall what happened to the first Bradley, but some mechanical issue dictated that we take lead. My driver picked his way through the town with his thermal sights and the commander was using his little R2D2-looking viewer called a CIV to scan for targets. We found a few, by the way. The coax 7.62mm is a fine tool for this sort of work.
As we progressed to our Special Forces brothers stuck in a ditch in a firefight, we did the best that we could to get there as quickly as possible. We were blindly navigating through this town. We had outdated maps, a set of GPS coordinates, and fuzzy satellite images to try to navigate with. It was dark, we were looking through thermals…and we took a wrong turn.
We ended up in what can best be described as an alley. We could not traverse the turret and my poor driver barely had room on each side of the vehicle thanks to the narrow street and walls on each side. We slowly picked our way down this kill zone and received a radio transmission from an AH64 Apache Gunship pilot (or co-pilot) advising us to stop immediately.
The radio transmission was simple, direct, and mildly terrifying. “Lead track, stop where you’re at. We see what appears to be an IED directly in front of you.” IED = roadside bomb. Improvised explosive device. Literally, one of the only two things in the entire country that can disable or kill my vehicle and everything in it. Our response was “where?”
After his best attempt to tell us where the device was, we determined that we didn’t know what he was talking about. All we knew is that we had a bomb in front of us. Had we known where it was at, I could have used the 25mm high explosive cannon sitting next to my right shoulder and blew it to kingdom come; however we didn’t know what to shoot at. Randomly peppering the entire road with high velocity exploding rounds does not guarantee that we will disable the device without a direct hit. We tried anyway and the pilot simply stated “It’s still there.”
Our Special Forces guys needed our help. Basically, they needed a tow truck. It is not like they actually needed us to help them kill everything on the planet. Those boys are good at what they do. Our mission was to get to them and this stupid alley with this stupid bomb was all that was in between us and mission complete. We did what any sane, rational Bradley crew would do. I told my driver to gun it. My vehicle commander agreed and we braced for impact.
Now the Bradley, if you cannot tell from the picture below, is not the very definition of speed. My driver floored it and got as much as he could out of it as we rolled through hell. The bomb exploded as we went over the top of the device. I had 3 crew members on the Bradley with me and approximately 4-6 guys in the back. Thankfully, God was on our side and we sustained no visible injuries. Our Bradley was not disabled. We proceeded to finish the mission from there.
IVAS could have changed this entire scenario. The Apache pilot could have highlighted where this bomb was so that we could see exactly what he was looking at. If I were able to engage it and disable it, we would not have had to risk a lot of young lives with the gutsy move that we had to pull. This is just one example of how real-world use of the IVAS could change the dynamic. Furthermore, had we known exactly where Special Forces was and had access to the views from orbiting aircraft and drones, we might not have ended up in that stupid alley to begin with.
Another instance where this technology would have saved the life of a very good friend of mine involves the crows nest on top of the HMVEE. He was a gunner. I will not put his name here because I have not spoken to his family, but know that I honor and remember him.
The exposed position on top of the HMVEE in a firefight led him to being fatally wounded with a shot to the head. Our helmets were not very good and provide minimal protection against direct fire. The armor around the turret stops a lot of bullets, but part of a soldier’s face was always exposed to fire. This is due to the need to aim the crew-served weapon with a clear line of sight. IVAS remote viewing of weapon sights would have saved my friend’s life. He would be here with his wife and children to this day had this technology existed in 2004.
I could sit here all day and tell you stories of situations I was in and tell you how IVAS would have helped. Firefights, a near friendly fire incident with the US Marines, roadside bomb accounts similar to the above, communication difficulties between fire teams and squads…all could be alleviated by IVAS. Advanced communication, situational awareness, and visual confirmation of targets or threats are potentially as potent as the development of the rifle. After all, it was not Rome’s superior weaponry that conquered the ancient world. Rather, it was their advanced logistical and communication skills, logistics, and tactics.
How is MVIS linked to IVAS?
This is quite simple, actually. IVAS is based on the HoloLens2. MVIS is undisputedly the technology that makes all of this possible with regards to image projection on the waveguides. After all, the HL2 and the IVAS are both essentially projectors in how they present information to the user.
MVIS developed a MEMs based laser beam scanning module that was licensed to the “2017 customer” as you will often hear MVIS representatives say. While none have confirmed the relationship between MVIS and MSFT directly, investors ripped apart a HoloLens2 and discovered the link on their own. This video has been widely circulated and has never been refuted. The hero for MVIS, in this case, is a guy who decided to call himself s2upid online. He, more than anyone else, is likely responsible for the rush of retail support to MVIS and the incredible run it has had post-COVID.
Opponents of MVIS have declared that OLED is superior to LBS for this application. That may be true in some sort of an alternate reality or advanced futuristic thought experiment. That is, however, not supported by anything that I have read or learned along the way. There are issues with display size, burn-in, and field of view with OLED, for example. While I will not profess to be an expert in LBS and OLED, there are those whom I speak with regularly who are much more informed than I am. I have a little bit more simple approach to research called “good ole logic.” If OLED were superior for AR applications, why did one of the world’s most powerful tech companies choose LBS over it to produce the only successful AR device on the market to date? That kind of speaks for itself.
I will, however, quote Geoffrey Porter here. He does have a sophisticated grasp on the OLED / LBS dialog and articulated it much more intelligently than I can. This was taken from a direct message between the two of us. Thank you GP for your help with this post!
Eyes On the Prize
IVAS and HL2 are just small reasons why a MSFT acquisition of MVIS makes sense. Sure, other companies could have an interest. The MVIS board of directors is infested with Google alumni with Mr. Sumit Sharma, Dr. Mark Spitzer, and Mrs. Seval Oz and Mrs. Judy Curran sat on the Ford BoD. Google and Ford have autonomous driving aspirations and, undoubtedly, Google wants to get a viable AR product onto the market after their failed Google Glass. With the recently awarded military contract for IVAS, however, MSFT has 22 billion reasons for this acquisition. Money talks.
Thank you for your time and attention. I hope this post sheds some light on the IVAS and the MVIS connection as well as some of the difficulties facing soldiers on the battlefield today. I am a supporter of US Veterans and I encourage everyone to please help if able. Some of our guys fight valiantly and are unable to readjust to life at home. These are good men and women that need help from a country that too often forsakes them.
What Do the Charts Say?
Technically speaking, meaning technical analysis, MVIS is still in a heavy consolidation period. That’s to be expected since the price spiked incredibly during the time when IVAS news was fresh in everyone’s mind. Of course, new news quickly becomes old news and people sell, reposition, and then the markets decided that they hated all of us. Many good companies took a hard hit and continue to keep getting pounded. MVIS is not an exception to that.
I’ve been keeping my focus on the weekly chart. There have been many head fakes so far in April with many retail investors anxious over the automotive LiDAR news that MVIS has promised. To drown out some of the noise, I’ve been keeping my eye on the weekly charts and still, as I have for many weeks, point to $17.50 as being the gateway to $20+. That has not changed. A weekly close below that is simply more consolidation and more pounding at the hands of the markets. Please check out the video below.
Have a great week and GOD bless!
Please note that I am not a financial advisor and this is not financial advice. Gator Traders LLC is owned, operated, and represented by the author of this article (Brian). I have a long position in MVIS. Gator Traders LLC does not provide financial advice and recommends that everyone do their own research, formulate their own theories of price action, and manage their own risks and investments. All investments and trades involve risk and no results can be guaranteed. Everything expressed in this post should be considered the opinion of the author and should be individually verified prior to initiating any trading decision.