Microsoft Wins $480M Contract for Combat-Grade HoloLens

HoloLens from above showing the visor and the headband

A contract worth $480 million has been awarded to Microsoft that will see it supply up to 100,000 modified HoloLens headsets for use in training and combat situations.

U.S. military officials clearly like what they've seen, and they're now ready to deploy augmented reality (AR) tech in live combat missions. "This new work extends our longstanding, trusted relationship with the Department of Defense to this new area", Microsoft told Bloomberg. By contrast, the US Army might buy as many as 100,000 headsets, essentially tripling sales. In a document shared with companies bidding on the contract, the Army said it wanted to incorporate night vision and thermal sensing, measure vital signs like breathing and "readiness", monitor for concussions and offer hearing protection.

"Augmented reality technology will provide troops with more and better information to make decisions", explained Microsoft. Yes, this purchase isn't for training, simulations, or support operations like repairs, engineering and field medics but meant to "increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide and engage before the enemy".

Microsoft's bet on HoloLens looks to be paying off.

With the contract, the Army immediately becomes one of Microsoft's most important HoloLens consumers.

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While the U.S. Army already uses Microsoft's HoloLens devices in training, this latest development would bring the headsets onto the battleground and into live combat.

President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said in a blog post that Microsoft will remain committed to its military and governmental agreements despite pushback from staff. Employees that are ethically conflicted regarding any contracts will be allowed to switch to a different project if they wish.

Bloomberg, which first spotted the contract win, reports that the deal will create a dramatic increase in HoloLens production.

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.

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