Microsoft snags $480m US Army hardware contract - Audio Visual


Microsoft's HoloLens is now only available to developers for $3,000 and businesses for $5,000.

Microsoft won a almost $480 million contract to provide the U.S. Army with 100,000 HoloLens headsets, a major boon for the company's "mixed reality" division that comes at a time of increased tensions internally over the tech giant's work for the Department of Defense. The terms of the contract could see the US military deploying 100,000 of the company's AR headsets. Microsoft beat out augmented reality company Magic Leap, among others. Specifically, the contract will see Microsoft provide the US Army with prototype HoloLens devices that can "increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide and engage before the enemy", a government description of the program reads.

Among other things, the US Army wants a variant that features both thermal and night vision capabilities, as well as hearing protection and the ability to monitor the wearer's health. The general idea is to create a system for individual solders that use infrared and low-light detectors to give them greater visibility on the battlefield. "This new work extends our longstanding, trusted relationship with the Department of Defense to this new area", Microsoft told Bloomberg in a statement. In June, over 100 of the company's employees requesting that Microsoft end its cloud computing contract with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The U.S. Army and the Israeli military have already used Microsoft's HoloLens devices in training, but plans for live combat would be a significant step forward.

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

Military and policing contracts can be thorny for tech companies to deal with.

While the headline deal is advertised for 100,000 headsets, the initial order is only for 2500 to be delivered within 2 years, with the capacity for mass production in the future.

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.