Over the past year, DefenceTech has been thrown into the global spotlight. The war in Ukraine has prompted or accelerated many conversations about security and how technology can be better utilised to create a safer world. In Estonia, the race to establish the country as a hotbed for DefenceTech innovation is well underway.
Showcasing the latest technology springing up on the Estonian DefenceTech landscape, the Defence59 demo event on February 15th will feature a selection of the most promising companies working on innovative solutions for defenders off and on the battlefield.
Take armoured vehicles, for example, which face a fairly prosaic problem in critical situations: For those inside them, there are no windows to actually see what’s happening outside of the vehicle in real-time. There’s also an often overwhelming number of digital sources of information inside the armoured vehicle, adding to the noise.
Both of these problems are solved in one fell swoop by Vegvisir, founded in 2021 by eight experienced professionals from Estonia and Croatia. Vegvisir is a mixed-reality situational awareness system (MRSAS) that provides armoured vehicle personnel a better understanding of their surroundings both in daylight and, thanks to thermal sensors, in the dark.
The key to getting mixed reality right on the battlefield
But what is mixed reality in the first place and how does it work in an armoured vehicle?
First, using cameras, Vegvisir brings a real-world image to the user inside the armoured vehicle. Through virtual reality (VR) headsets, the user is also connected to the digital battlefield. Important information is displayed right in front of the user’s eyes, making it impossible to miss. This, known as a mixed-reality solution, contributes to enhancing survivability and superiority on the battlefield.
But perhaps the most crucial element that often gets in the way of such technology being used reliably is latency — the time it takes for the photons of light to travel from the camera to the headset. In other similar systems, the delay often makes them unusable due to the motion sickness the latency can cause in users.
According to Ingvar Pärnamäe, CEO & Co-founder, Vegvisir’s system brings latency down to a minimum, meaning there’s no delay to speak of. This game-changing difference is what sets Vegvisir apart.
Defence solutions based on personal battlefield experience
Like all the best innovations, Vegvisir’s solution was born from personal pain.
The founding team combines a vast breadth of expertise — from military operations and the defence industry to years of startup experience. The original idea for the system came from the founders with military backgrounds who had experienced being stuck in armoured vehicles in a battle situation. Their question was a simple one: What tools did they wish they’d had available to them during their military deployments in Afghanistan or elsewhere in the world?
The answer: A 360-degree field of vision with a camera and sensor system installed on the armoured vehicle, allowing the entire crew to see a real-time, simultaneous, minimum-latency image of the vehicle’s surroundings.
Building beyond the MVP
As of today, Vegvisir has been in development for just over two years, during which time the team has already successfully completed field tests with the Estonian Defence Forces. The results: the concept clearly works in real life. Of the 40 people who tested the system, for example, none experienced motion sickness, showing that the system is reliable for real-life use.
Currently at the minimal viable product (MVP) stage, Vegvisir is poised to have its final product ready this year and demonstrate it by September 2023 at the latest. Until then, the focus for Vegvisir will largely be on implementing lessons learned in the field so far and further perfecting a system that promises to seriously improve the way armoured vehicles operate in high-stress environments.
The foundation is solid, and the future of mixed reality on the battlefield is looking bright.
See Vegvisir’s pitch at Defence59 here:
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