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18th of December 2018

Gadgets



Microsoft wins $480 million military contract to bring HoloLens to the battlefield

HoloLens from above, showing the visor and the headband.HoloLens from above, showing the visor and the headband.Esy Casey

Microsoft has won a $480 million contract to develop an augmented reality system for use in combat and military training for the US Army.

Called Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), formerly Heads Up Display (HUD) 3.0, the goal of the project is to develop a headset that gives soldiers—both in training and in combat—an increase in "Lethality, Mobility, and Situational Awareness." The ambitions for the project are high. Authorities want to develop a system with a goggle or visor form factor—nothing mounted on a helmet—with an integrated 3D display, digital cameras, ballistic laser, and hearing protection.

The system should provide remote viewing of weapon sights to enable low risk, rapid target acquisition, perform automated or assisted target acquisition, integrate both thermal and night vision cameras, track soldier vitals such as heart and breathing rates, and detect concussions. Over the course of IVAS' development, the military will order an initial run of 2,550 prototypes, with follow-on production possibly in excess of 100,000 devices.

The military has already used HoloLens for training. Microsoft's current headset falls far short of the requirements—for a start, it's too bulky and offers an insufficient field of view—but it certainly serves as important precursor technology. A new version of the headset is expected to be shown next year. Augmented reality startup Magic Leap is also reported to have bid as part of an attempt by the military to expand the range of contractors beyond the traditional military-industrial complex.

The successful bid comes against a backdrop of employees being increasingly willing to speak out against customers that they disapprove of. In June this year, Microsoft staff penned an open letter imploring the company to end its contract with ICE due to widespread revulsion at ICE's family separation policy. Google similarly has seen substantial internal backlash over its plans to build a censored search engine for China, and earlier in the year, an image recognition system for the Department of Defense.

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