Microsoft is developing a special version of the HoloLens 2 for the military. Called Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), the device replaced the Army’s own Heads-Up Display 3.0 effort to develop a sophisticated situational awareness tool soldiers can use to view key tactical information before their eyes.

The technology is still a bit away from the battlefield, but the Army has found a surprising way to repurpose the sensor-laden headset to fight the global coronavirus pandemic.

The army is using the digital thermal sensors in the headset to rapidly assess the temperature of hundreds of soldiers reporting to Fort Benning, Georgia, for boot camp and Ranger School.

“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.

On the prompting of the army, Microsoft tweaked the HoloLens software to allow it to detect a fever. Now when troops arrive at Fort Benning they are scanned for 5 seconds by a headset-wearing soldier which displays their temperature and any soldier with a temperature are diverted to the medics for assessment.  After 10 soldiers the headset is recalibrated, and the system can scan more than 300 soldiers in 30 minutes.

The army says the method is more economical and sanitary than using traditional thermometers.

“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.”

Regarding its original mission, the Army announced they would start fielding the new equipment in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2021.