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

Microsoft has signed a contract with the U.S. military that will see its AR headset HoloLens deployed into combat

US Army to use Microsoft’s Hololens for combat missions

According to Bloomberg, the US Army and the Israeli military have already been trialling the HoloLens in training. "This new work extends our longstanding, trusted relationship with the DoD to this new area".

"Augmented reality technology will provide troops with more and better information to make decisions". Citing a presentation for the European patent office, Bloomberg reports that Microsoft had sold about 50,000 total HoloLens devices as of this spring. The military intends the system to "increase lethality", among other things.

It is unclear how Microsoft will be able to provide all of that for less than it sells enterprise versions of the HoloLens, but knowing U.S. government expenditures, the $480 million was probably just a development fee with a future purchasing price yet to be determined. It expects devices to vary from their consumer-grade counterparts in a handful of key respects.

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This new venture, though, is a significant step up from what we've seen previously, with the U.S. 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. In early August, the Army held meetings with 25 companies interested in participating in some way, including Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp., and Raytheon Co.

Making the leap to combat is no small task, obviously. The technology industry's cooperation with the USA military and law enforcement has become increasingly tense over the a year ago, with employees at companies like Alphabet Inc.'s Google and Inc. pushing back against government contracts. The solution? Move uneasy staff members to other projects, Microsoft president Brad Smith said last month. 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.

"We want the people of this country and especially the people who serve this country to know that we at Microsoft have their backs", Smith wrote in a blog post.

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