AjnaLens launched mixed reality glasses, AjnaXR, along with an immersive learning platform, AjnaVidya, at CES 2023

In an attempt to stay one step ahead, India has been working towards revamping the country’s defence and military operation by incorporating artificial intelligence. The effort is in the right direction as combat units, military intelligence and surveillance, and war efficiency can all be improved by including AI in fundamental operations.

Mixed Reality start-up AjnaLens (Dimension NXG) is collaborating with Indian defence for a more AI-enabled defence system. AjnaLens launched mixed reality glasses, AjnaXR, along with an immersive learning platform, AjnaVidya, at CES 2023 which has received widespread recognition.

Pankaj Raut (chief executive officer), Abhishek Tomar (chief technology officer), and Abhijit Patil, (chief operating officer) founded it in 2014. It bagged pre-Series A funding of Rs 12 crore ($1.6 million) from Lets Ventures Angel Fund and JITO Angel Network, among other entities in February, 2022. It is backed by angel investors like Vijay Shekhar Sharma, the founder of Paytm, Japan Vyas, the managing partner of Roots Ventures, the Maharashtra Defence and Aerospace Venture Fund run by IDBI Capital Markets and Securities, and many more.

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology can change the way India’s defence force trains and equips its soldiers.

“AR-VR glasses have a wide range of applications. Right from medical, aerospace to education and defence. Defence also has a wide range of XR applications to upgrade soldiers, vehicles and weapons, such as crime scene visualisation, holographic planning, holographic collaboration, enhancing situational awareness, remote assistance, and much more,” said Patil.

Besides AjnaXR and AjnaVidya, AjnaLens has also created AjnaESAS, a see-through armour system that uses a 360° camera system fixed on a tank and an ‘Augmented Reality Head Mounted Display’ (AR-HMD) worn by the crew. It offers a 360° field of view and night vision, can be zoomed in well, and has features to increase survivability, mobility, and safety, thereby making it useful for defence applications.

Funded by the Ministry of Defence, AjnaLens is working to upgrade India’s battle tanks with these see-through armour systems for higher situational awareness, enabling them to detect potential threats and react more quickly to them. Additionally, the company is collaborating with the Indian Army to augment the abilities of weapon systems and with the Navy and DRDO to offer immersive training via their unique physical and digital learning solution.

According to Patil, one of the key uses for AR/VR technology remains in training and upskilling soldiers. Traditional live training methods can be risky and expensive. AjnaLens’ training module can be used by soldiers to practise in a safe space, as many times as they need to, and in different scenarios. This not only increases the efficiency of training but also saves a significant amount of capital that can be utilised in other areas of defence.

Adding to the point, Patil said, “Another use case for AjnaLens’ AR/VR technology is to enhance the existing weapon systems or vehicles already in use by the defence forces. By incorporating this technology, the defence force can save money by upgrading their existing systems instead of buying new ones. This approach is cost-effective and modular, making it easier for the defence forces to become more advanced and future-ready. Additionally, by developing a Made-in-India product, AjnaLens can be exported globally.”

The products are solely made in India but the challenges of poor infrastructure along with lack of vendors and subsidy continues to impede the process. However, Patil acknowledges that the scenario is slowly changing.

Besides defence, AjnaLens developed the mining training module to guide natural resources company Vedanta’s employees on how to operate the massive drill machine. Because most of the equipment is operated manually, they created AjnaSparsh (haptic gloves) to make training more immersive and interactions more natural.

India’s Goal To Strengthen Its Defence With AI

The Department of Defence Production has allotted $12.6 million annually for military AI research. Earlier, Rajnath Singh, India’s defence minister, stated that the use of AI can aid in the development of autonomous military devices that can effectively handle large amounts of data, aid in training soldiers, and be very helpful in combat.

The Indian army has already used AI for facial recognition, language translation, remotely-operated weapon stations, robotic mine detectors, and intrusion detection systems. The army currently seeks an AI system that can collect, analyse, and present important data in a short time span to assist quick decision making needed during battle. On the other hand, the navy is also using training schools to upskill its personnel in AI and machine learning (ML), while collaborating with educational institutions and companies, such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs), Bharat Electronics, and Goa Shipyards.

India’s Vice Admiral Rajesh Pendharkar explained that the navy is working towards becoming a more AI-enabled force. In order to improve combat operations, communications, logistics management, maintenance, cybersecurity, and physical security, the Indian Navy is also working towards becoming a more AI-enabled force.

With an aim to make grassroot-level impact on people and a focus on secure, cost-effective, and future-ready solutions, AjnaLens is well-positioned to overhaul the way soldiers are trained and equipped—both in India and around the globe.