Fighter pilot helmets are among the most exciting areas of wearable tech, but they haven't all been unalloyed successes. There are many reasons the Lockheed-Martin F-35 fighter jet has been held up for almost as long as Guns N Roses' comeback album, and is likely to be as disappointing.
However, a prime one is that its VR helmet, built to allow the pilot to "see through" the fuselage of the jet, is so big and lumpy, test pilots have claimed they can't actually look around in the cockpit during dogfights without banging their heads. That's according to Wikipedia, anyway.
Maybe that's why BAE Systems has toned down its aspirations for its Striker II helmet-mounted display (HMD), so that rather than allowing the wearer to look through walls, it merely allows them to see in the dark. It does so via a lightweight, built-in, HD night vision camera, feeding to a display on the helmet’s visor.
Currently being trialled for who-knows-how-long-for, this will "lead the way to a fully integrated digital night vision helmet, replacing the need for traditional analogue night vision goggles."
This is a plus because it, "Removes the need for heavy night vision goggles which increase G-force pressures on the head and neck, limiting the pilot’s manoeuvrability in the cockpit,” says Peter Kosogorin, test pilot for BAE Systems. “The helmet provides a clear and accurate visual display and a seamless transition from day to night, eliminating the need to manually configure and adjust night vision goggles.”
The intention is to provide ‘plug and play’ compatibility with the Eurofighter Typhoon jet, allowing pilots across the EU to gain 'Eyes of the Owl' (our phrase, not BAE Systems').
Striker II is also intended to better track the pilot’s head position, so there's no delay between him or her looking at something - an enemy fighter, for instance - and the onboard systems overlaying targetting and other information on it.
As BAE Systems release puts it, "The results are high-precision target tracking and engagement as well as superior situational awareness and mission effectiveness." Or as we put it: Striker II makes the pilot better at blowing sh*t up.
Now feast your eyes on these images, in which the model is by no stretch of the imagination trying too hard.