The United States Army would like to outfit its soldiers with augmented reality headsets to improve their situational awareness, target engagement, and informed decision-making. The contract for the headsets, worth up to $21.8 billion over the course of the next 10 years, was awarded to Microsoft.
The 120,000 or so headsets Microsoft is expected to deliver will be based on HoloLens and called the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS).
“The IVAS aggregates multiple technologies into an architecture that allows the Soldier to Fight, Rehearse, and Train using a single platform,” writes David Patterson, PEO Soldier Director of Public Affairs, in the official press release. “The system also leverages augmented reality and machine learning to enable a life-like mixed reality training environment so the CCF can rehearse before engaging any adversaries.
The first information about Microsoft possibly working hand-in-hand with the United States Army surfaced in 2019 when the tech giant won a contract worth $479 million. The contract sparked an outrage among some Microsoft employees, who wrote an open letter to the company’s CEO, Satya Nadella.
“We are alarmed that Microsoft is working to provide weapons technology to the US Military, helping one country’s government ‘increase lethality’ using tools we built,” stated the letter. “We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used.”
It’s now clear that their act of protest amounted to very little. Microsoft isn’t the only company that’s working directly with the United States army to develop IVAS.
For example, FLIR Systems, the world’s largest commercial company specializing in the design and production of thermal imaging cameras, will provide a thermal sensor for the modified HoloLens headset to give it night-vision capabilities. In total, the United States army has 12 sensor contracts.