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Marine with HoloLens
Marines test a HoloLens headset during a training exercise meant to strengthen small-unit decision making at Camp Lejeune, N.C. (USMC Photo / Sgt. Kaitlyn V. Klein)

Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented-reality headsets have been used to fight video-game aliens in space, but now they’ve been enlisted for wargames on Earth as well.

The HoloLens system was incorporated into a platform known as the Augmented Immersive Team Trainer that lets Marines plan missions and conduct “what-if” simulations while looking at a real-world terrain.

The wargaming software, which is called Interactive Tactical Decision Game, or I-TDG, can overlay a view of the environment with virtual objects ranging from ground vehicles and aircraft to explosions and other battlefield effects.

The system was used in November during a training exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., conducted by the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marlnes – 2/6, also known as “the Spartans.”

“For me, the best part of I-TDG was recreating simulated battles we conducted during past field exercises and using the system as a debrief on what we did wrong and how we could be better,” Lt. Andrew Veal said in a news release. “Like athletes watching game film, you really experienced that ‘aha’ moment.”

Meanwhile, the Army Research Laboratory in Maryland has been showing off a HoloLens application that lets researchers explore simulated under-body blasts, such as the explosions caused by improvised explosive devices (a.k.a. IEDs) in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The augmented-reality application, developed in cooperation with Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab, helps researchers (and generals) get a better understanding of how blast injuries can affect soldiers, and how updated vehicle designs can minimize the damage.

Microsoft is branching out beyond the U.S. military when it comes to wargaming applications: The Ukrainian armed forces are testing HoloLens-enhanced helmets designed to display real-time battlefield data, while the Israeli army and the Royal Australian Air Force are studying how HoloLens can be used for planning and training.

Although NASA astronaut Scott Kelly had fun trying out the RoboRaid video game on HoloLens during his nearly yearlong stint on the International Space Station, the space agency is experimenting with augmented reality for far more serious purposes, ranging from guidance for on-orbit maintenance tasks to interplanetary rover design.

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