The US military may soon be equipped with Microsoft Hololens

 

The US military has seen its first delivery of specially designed Microsoft Hololens augmented reality headsets.

An order for 5,000 headsets, estimated to be worth approximately $373 million, has been signed by Assistant Secretary for Acquisitions Douglas Bush, Bloomberg (opens in new tab) has reported, after successful field tests (opens in new tab).

The new Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) units are heavily adapted from the existing Hololens 2 headsets first released by Microsoft, with a heads-up display that can display high-resolution nighttime, thermal, and soldier-worn sensor data. offer – all powered by Microsoft Azure cloud services.

Hololens IVAS

Microsoft first revealed news of its deal with the US military in November 2018, when the company landed a $480 million contract to manufacture 100,000 specialty HoloLens devices.

This was complemented in March 2021 with a new partnership that could be worth as much as $21.9 billion for around 120,000 units.

At the time, the company said the IVAS devices will “provide a platform that will keep soldiers safer and more effective. The program will enhance situational awareness, enabling information sharing and decision-making in a variety of scenarios.”

However, the deal has been met with heavy criticism, both internally at Microsoft and by the rest of the world. The company’s CEO Satya Nadella was forced to defend Microsoft’s work with the U.S. military in February 2019, where he said it “wouldn’t withhold technology from institutions we choose in democracies to preserve the freedoms we enjoy.” to protect”.

The company was also criticized for its role in winning the controversial $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract to revive the cloud network at the Pentagon in late 2020, a victory that still faces multiple legal challenges. .

A final test report will now be released in October 2022, after which the US military will decide whether to proceed with the purchase.

This report, released at the beginning of the military’s fiscal year, must be approved by Congress, while the House and Senate credit committees have already proposed a significant cut in the military’s request pending results. of the tests.