The terms of the contract could see the USA military deploying 100,000 of the company's AR headsets. "This new work extends our longstanding, trusted relationship with the Department of Defense to this new area", a Microsoft spokesman said. 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 Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) the company is working on was previously known as the Heads Up Display (HUD) 3.0 and is meant as a way to offer soldiers on the battlefield (as well as those in training) an increase in "lethality, mobility, and situational awareness". It expects devices to vary from their consumer-grade counterparts in a handful of key respects. Now priced at US$5000 each for the standard model, the military version will be upgraded with night vision capabilities, thermal sensing, will offer hearing protection and will be able to measure vital signs including a soldier's combat readiness. Based on the contract it was awarded, Microsoft will need to deliver 2,500 of these prototype headsets to the US Army within the next two years. At that point this new version of HoloLens should also be ready for "full-scale production".
Over the summer, the USA military met with defense contractors such as Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp., and Raytheon Co. for the program.
SEE ALSO: Porgs make Magic Leap fun. The company has previously faced criticism from its employees for bidding for military contracts, but it responded by saying it believed that those defending the United States should have access to the best technology. In response Microsoft's President and Chief Legal Officer, Brad Smith, wrote about possibly relocating various employees with ethical qualms over some projects. 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.
"Artificial intelligence, augmented reality and other technologies are raising new and profoundly important issues, including the ability of weapons to act autonomously".