Flexible and wearable display technologies are critical to today’s dismounted soldiers

By Courtney E. Howard

The U.S. Department of Defense is increasingly investing in the advancement of display technology for military applications. The U.S. Army, in particular, is a driving force in the acceleration of display technology for defense environments.

The Natick Soldier RD&E Center (NSRDEC), located at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass., and working under The Army’s Research, Development, and Engineering Command (RDECOM), is focused on outfitting tomorrow’s soldiers with the most innovative electronics technologies, including the latest head-mounted displays, as part of the Future Force Warrior (FFW) Science and Technology initiative. Head-mounted displays will provide FFWs with sensor data and a communications link with others on and off the network-centric battlefield.

The Army also is working with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) on its Advanced Soldier Sensor Information Systems Technology (ASSIST) effort. ASSIST takes advantage of display technology, in combination with soldier-worn sensors, to augment the soldier’s situational awareness and to improve his recall and reporting capabilities.

At the same time, the U.S. Army’s Warrior programs-including the Land Warrior, Air Warrior, and Mounted Warrior Soldier Systems-integrate a small, helmet-mounted display to deliver command, control, communications and computer (C4) data and video to fielded soldiers. General Dynamics C4 Systems in Scottsdale, Ariz., heads up the Mounted Warrior, Land Warrior, and Air Warrior programs, which are managed by the U.S. Army Program Executive Office-Soldier in Fort Belvoir, Va. General Dynamics C4 Systems contracted Microvision in Redmond, Wash., to provide full-color, helmet-mounted displays for the U.S. Army’s Mounted Warrior Soldier System.

Additionally, the Flexible Display Center (FDC), established two years ago as part of a $43.7 million, five-year agreement between the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and Arizona State University, combines the skills and resources of academia, industry, and government to develop thin, light, rugged, and low-power computer screens that are flexible enough to conform to a soldier’s sleeve, for example. In February, the FDC announced the world’s first flexible, four-inch-diagonal, active-matrix QVGA reflective electrophoretic display fabricated on DuPont Teijin Film’s heat-stabilized PEN polyester film. This technology is likely to contribute to the production of display sleeves, flexible printed electronics that form a display on the sleeve of a soldier’s uniform.

Display technology is considered to be critical to the Army’s network-centric initiatives. “Flexible display technology has the potential to be implemented in a wide variety of applications from command centers, to vehicle platforms, to individual soldiers. It will revolutionize the way in which information is disseminated on the battlefield, increasing both the lethality and survivability of the Future Force,” John Miller, then acting director of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, was quoted as saying in 2004. This statement is no less true today. In fact, flexible and wearable displays are capable of serving a wide variety of military functions - including situational awareness, thermal imaging, simulation and training, and ISR to name a few. “Wearable displays are used in night vision goggles and new command, control, communication, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR), command and control (C2), and weapon systems control applications,” Ross Smith, co-founder and president of Quantum3D in San Jose, Calif., acknowledges.

Technology companies are answering the DOD’s call for innovative wearable and flexible displays, investing in research and development of rugged, reliable solutions for the soldiers of today and the future. Military personnel are requesting displays with high resolution, low power consumption, small size, and the ability to withstand shock and vibration, and various environment conditions. “Each of these is important, along with cost, color depth, daytime and NVG readability, and life cycle support,” Smith notes. “The order of importance depends on the mission. Our customers want super-rugged, multiyear support, small and low-power, in general.”

Today’s wearable display systems, offered in monocular and binocular form factors, are designed to take up little viewable space. Yet, a new innovation in display technology delivers augmented reality, whereby a head-mounted or wearable display superimposes computer-generated images and information onto a real-world view. As a result, soldiers remain engaged with their environment, while simultaneously benefiting from digitally delivered, real-time operational data delivered on-screen.

Click here to enlarge image


Easily post a comment below using your Linkedin, Twitter, Google or Facebook account.

The Innovation That Matters™ Quiz

Innovation is one of the key drivers in the Defense industry. View this short video of Leon Woo, VP of Engineering at Mercury Systems, on the role of innovation. Then, answer 3 simple questions correctly to be entered into a drawing to win an Eddie Bauer fleece jacket!


Military & Aerospace Photos

Related Products

RR2P Removable Canister RAID System

Transportable data storage for mobile field use aboard planes, ships and ground transport. 2U, du...

Sensors Unlimited GA1280JSX High Resolution, Mil-Rugged, Extended High Sensitivity InGaAs SWIR Camera

Manufactures a high resolution, mil-rugged, extended high-sensitivity 0.9 Mpixel InGaAs SWIR came...

M1U20xx 1U Military-Grade Computer System

The M1U20xx Military-Grade Rack Mount System is a reliable high-performance mil-spec 1U solution ...

Related Companies

Winchester Systems Inc

At its founding in 1981, Winchester Systems introduced its first 5 MB disk system for Intel development system users....

Extreme Engineering Solutions Inc (X-ES)

 Extreme Engineering Solutions, Inc. (X-ES) is a leader in the design, manufacture, and support of standard and ...

American Infrared Solutions (AIRS)

Wire News provided by   

Most Popular Articles


Meeting the Gen3 backplane challenge with OpenVPX and COTS

Tight Pentagon budgets mean military systems must stay in the field for longer than ever before. This doesn't mean obsolete technology, however. Today's military electronics are being upgraded constantly, an...
Sponsored by:

Digital signal processing for signals intelligence and electronic warfare

Military & Aerospace Electronics presents an expert Webcast on the design considerations for blending general-purposes processors (GPUs), general-purpose graphics processors (GPGPUs), field-programmable ...
Sponsored by:

Advantages of Intel Architecture Products and Wind River Solutions in Military & Aerospace Applications

This webinar explains the individual advantages of the Intel Architecture hardware, available for long-life supply, and the WRS software portfolio.  There are extraordinary advantages of combining such ...
Sponsored by:

social activity

All Access Sponsors

Mil & Aero Magazine

February 2014
Volume 25, Issue 2

Download Our Apps




Follow Us On...


Military & Aerospace Electronics

Weekly newsletter covering technical content, breaking news and product information

Defense Executive

Monthly newsletter covering business news and strategic insights for executive managers

Embedded Computing Report

Monthly newsletter covering news on embedded computing in aerospace, defense and industrial-rugged applications

Unmanned Vehicles

Monthly newsletter covering news updates for designers of unmanned vehicles