The Science of Halo, Fact vs Fiction: Heads Up Display (HUD)

We all seen this type of technology in Halo for nearly a decade and a half. This technology does exist today, albeit in a slightly different form.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert in this field. This article was in part written and reflagged from existing articles that I’ve included references for near the end of the article. Any facts I may get wrong are not intentional. This article is for entertainment purposes only and is by no means exhaustive with the information herein. I highly suggest you click on the links contained throughout the article if you want to get a fuller understanding of this real-world tech.


In Halo, we the gamers use the heads up display for motion tracking, ammo and grenade counts as well as health, shields and targeting. As with all technology, the HUD has changed from Halo CE through to Halo 4.

Halo CE’s HUDHalo CE HUD
Halo 2’s HUDHalo 2 HUD
Halo 3’s HUDHalo 3 HUD
Halo 4’s HUDHalo 4 HUD

The HUD in Halo can also detect what weapon the bearer has in their hands, switching targeting reticles to match that of the weapon in use. The term HUD is actually incorrect and should be call HMD or helmet mounted display. The difference being that in HUDs you have to look up to see it and it’s fixed into place. Whereas, the HMD is shown on the visor and thus moves with the user’s head movement.


Since Halo CE, we gamers have enjoyed the use of a heads up display or HUD. The technology shown in the game from the start up to the present game for a singular soldier on the battlefield was something that only a decade ago was science fiction.

The earliest for a HUD tech can be traced back to pre-Wolrd War II. HUD tech evolved from “reflector sight,” a parallax free optical sight tech for military jet fighters. Below shows an early German schematic of this tech.

reflector sightGyro gunsight was the first tech to use reflector sight. As this tech advanced, the early HUDs started displaying computed gunnery solutions. An example of this is the British AI Mk VIII air interception radar. The radar display was projected onto an aircrafts windscreen also showing an artificial horizon. This allowed pilots to now dogfight without having to look away from their windscreen to check their radar.

HUD tech evolved in 1958 by the Royal Navy. This HUD had an attack sight that provided nav and weapon release info for low level attacks. This HUD tech faced strong competition  from those who supported the older electro-mechanical gunsight. In the ’60s French test-pilot Gilbert Klopfstien created the first modern HUD and a standardized set of symbols for HUDs so pilots only needed to learn one system. The ’70s brought HUD tech to commercial aviation. In 1988 the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme was the first car to have a HUD. (1)

HUD tech for soldiers’ helmets have been around for a few years now. In 2004 at the Soldier Technology (convention) in Belgium, a new system for the time was shown. It was the NA-OR Advanced Integrated Soldier System or AISS. This personal HUD improved situational awareness, target identifcation, bidirectional communication of data and an early “Friend or Foe” tag system. An example of this HUD is shown below on the soldier’s helmet. (2)


Fast forward to 2013 where HUD tech is now not only looking like the HALO HUD on a small screen, but is now incorporated into a full face visor on a helmet that looks VERY much like an early Spartan Helmet.


Just last year, Sept. 2013, this new tech was shown at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting. The helmet not only has enhanced protective measures, but also embedded technology that includes a see-through, heads-up display and communication capabilities.

With 72 percent of all combat injuries impacting the face, the engineers sought to bridge a “technology gap” with a mandible and visor on the helmet.heads-up-helmet_2-620x411

The helmet includes cushioning to meet a 14-feet-per-second impact requirement, which will help reduce cases of traumatic brain injuries that translates to protection for a rifle round threat. (3)

This Halo-like helmet has not yet been adopted into the military yet.

Take a look at these videos by Revision Military, the makers of the above helmet:

With the advent of Google Glass and the developing bionic contact lens, people from all over the globe will be able to have personal heads up display. The new Augmented-reality contact lens is touted to be “human-ready” at this year’s CES (Consumer Electronics Show).


While the HUD of the present as yet can not detect what weapon the soldier is currently holding, can that tech really be far behind? Bio-scan technology is being integrated into current HUDs to alert the soldier as well as their base of the vital signs.


The HUD of Halo isn’t science fiction anymore. While current tech does not yet include all of the aspects of Halo’s HUD, it most certainly is close. It’s very predictable that in the very near future, current technology will have the rest of Halo’s HUD incorporated into single soldier use.

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