Published: Fri, November 30, 2018
Money | By Ethel Goodwin

Microsoft HoloLens gets US$480M contract for special combat variant

Microsoft HoloLens gets US$480M contract for special combat variant

Uses? The Army plans to use the headsets for combat missions as well as training. The contract is for the supply of augmented reality system prototypes, and could lead to the military purchasing over 100,000 HoloLens AR headsets as part of its Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS, program.

"Augmented reality technology will provide troops with more and better information to make decisions. This new work extends our longstanding, trusted relationship with the Department of Defense to this new area", a Microsoft spokesman said in an emailed statement.

Mashable recently had the opportunity to Microsoft's HoloLens with its competitor Magic Leap.

The headset used for the experiments are expected to be significantly upgraded, featuring night vision and thermal sensing, measure vital signs like breathing and "readiness", monitor for concussions and offer hearing protection. HoloLens is aimed more at developers and enterprise users rather than consumers. The relationship between the technology sector and the United States military has become fraught over the past year, with employees at Amazon, Google, and Microsoft protesting their companies' bids for government contracts.

While the U.S. Army already uses Microsoft's HoloLens devices in training, this latest development would bring the headsets onto the battleground and into live combat. The government contract is asking Microsoft to provide 100,000 units. "In the most positive way possible, we are going to work to help shape it".

However, the DoD is also tasking the tech giant with developing military-grade software to go along with the highly customized devices.

Microsoft legal chief Brad Smith defended the company's bidding on that project, which involves moving massive amounts of Pentagon internal data and processing power to a commercially operated cloud system. However, with the Department of Defense opening this contract up to non-traditional military suppliers, it seems clear that the company was able to sell the capabilities of its technology in a combat environment.

Bloomberg, which first spotted the contract win, reports that the deal will create a dramatic increase in HoloLens production.

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