The US Army received the first shipment of specially designed Microsoft Hololens headsets for augmented reality.
The order for 5,000 headsets, valued at approximately $ 373 million, was signed by Deputy Purchasing Secretary Douglas Bush, Bloomberg (opens in a new tab) reported the following successful field tests (opens in a new tab).
The new Integrated Visual Assist System (IVAS) units have been largely adapted from existing Hololens 2 headsets first released by Microsoft, featuring a heads-up display offering high-resolution data from night, thermal and soldier sensors – all powered by cloud services Microsoft Azure.
Microsoft first released its agreement with the U.S. military in November 2018, when the company secured a $ 480 million contract to manufacture 100,000 specialty HoloLens devices.
This was supplemented in March 2021 with a new partnership that could be worth up to $ 21.9 billion for around 120,000 units.
At that time, the company announced that IVAS devices would provide “a platform that will keep soldiers safe and increase their efficiency. The program provides increased situational awareness, allowing information to be shared and decisions to be made in different scenarios ”.
However, the deal faced harsh criticism, both at Microsoft and around the world. The company’s CEO, Satya Nadella, was forced to defend Microsoft’s collaboration with the US military in February 2019, where he said he was not “holding technology back from the institutions we chose in democracies to protect the freedoms we enjoy.”
The company has also been criticized for its role in winning the controversial $ 10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract to revive the Pentagon’s cloud network in late 2020, a victory that still faces many legal challenges.
The final test report is expected to be released in October 2022, after which the U.S. military will decide whether to proceed with the purchase.
This report, released earlier in the army’s fiscal year, will need to be approved by Congress, and the House and Senate panels have already proposed to significantly reduce the army’s demand pending test results.