US Army awards Microsoft $480m contract for special HoloLens headsets

Gladys Abbott
November 30, 2018

Microsoft has been awarded a $480 million contract to supply the US Army with prototype HoloLens augmented reality systems for use in combat missions and training, according to a filing with the General Services Administration. According to documents for the Army's Integrated Visual Augmentation System project, the goal is to "manufacture a single platform that soldiers can use to fight, rehearse, and train".

Microsoft beat out several other suitors, including Magic Leap, for the contract.

If successfully trailed, the deal could lead to the sale of over 100,000 headsets to the US Army.

This new venture, though, is a significant step up from what we've seen previously, with the United States government keen on finding a headset that could allow for night vision, the ability to measure vital signs, bring hearing protection and monitor for signs of concussion. Microsoft's HoloLens is one of the few, but companies like Google, Apple and Samsung are rumored to be working on their own.

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"Augmented reality technology will provide troops with more and better information to make decisions", a Microsoft spokesman said in a statement. Instead of trying to appeal to consumers, Microsoft indicates that the 50,000 shifted units has been in the business sector. "Given our size and product diversity, we often have open jobs across the company and we want people to look for the work they want to do, including with help from Microsoft's HR team", Smith said.

The U.S. Army and the Israeli military have already used Microsoft's HoloLens devices in training, but plans for live combat would be a significant step forward. Microsoft employees recently signed a petition criticizing its contract with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Earlier this year, Microsoft employees gathered online to protest the company's entertaining a contract with the US DoD's Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, project, including some of its artificial intelligence software.

Microsoft president and chief legal officer, Brad Smith, addressed the criticism in a blog post.

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