High-tech equipment designed to give soldiers the same kind of information that fighter pilots rely on are now being used in the Army’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
The Army is repurposing the emerging technology of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) to rapidly assess the temperature of hundreds of soldiers reporting to Fort Benning, Georgia, for training such as Ranger School or boot camp.
“A week ago, we were talking about the potential impacts of the pandemic on the IVAS program. Today we’re talking about the potential impacts of IVAS on the pandemic,” said Brig. Gen. Dave Hodne, commandant of the Infantry School at Fort Benning.
The Microsoft-designed goggles and its “heads up display” is meant to give soldiers complete situational awareness without requiring them to take their eyes off the target.
Last week, Army officials announced they would start fielding the new equipment in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2021. At the same time, a director in the IVAS projects office at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, was watching the news about COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
“It occurred to him that the digital thermal sensors in IVAS could be adapted to detect a fever,” Army officials said Monday.
Microsoft quickly agreed to tweak the software, and the repurposed goggles were shipped to Fort Benning four days later. A team of experts trained military staff there how to use them.
Troops arriving at Fort Benning file into a room and pause for five seconds while facing a soldier wearing the IVAS goggles. The person’s temperature then registers on the display, and anyone with a fever is moved to an onsite medical station for evaluation.
The goggles are quickly recalibrated for accuracy after 10 soldiers are checked. Army officials said it takes less than 30 minutes to measure the temperature of 300 soldiers.
The method is more economical and sanitary than using traditional thermometers, Army officials said.
“We’ve always planned for an agile software system and a digital platform that can be upgraded and adapted to use against emerging threats in the future,” said Tom Bowman, the IVAS projects officer who first raised the possibility that the goggles could be used to detect a soldier’s temperature. “No one anticipated the next threat to emerge would be a virus, but that’s the enemy we face today.”
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