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Microsoft Wins USD 22 billion Contract to Supply 120,000 AR Headsets to the US Army

Today, Microsoft announced that it has been given a contract to outfit the United States Army with its augmented reality headsets. This contract could likely be worth USD 21.88 billion over 10 years, with a five-year base agreement that can be extended for another five years.

Microsoft will be completing the 120,000 AR headsets order for the Army based on their Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) design. The modified design of the headsets is upgraded with HoloLens 2 to meet the requirements of soldiers in the field.

Alex Kipman, an engineer at Microsoft remarked, “The AR technology program will deliver an enhanced situational awareness, and provide troops better information for decision-making in major scenarios. These new efforts will enhance our trust and relationship with the Department of Defense.”

Microsoft’s headsets will allow people to see virtual imagery superimposed over the physical world in front of them — anything from holograms in virtual game worlds to repair instructions floating over a broken gadget. Users will also be able to control what they see by using hand gestures or some voice commands.

Microsoft President Brad Smith said that the system could integrate thermal night vision and facial recognition to provide soldiers real-time analytics on battlefields. He also described how the AR-enabled headsets would help in planning a hostage rescue operation by simply creating a digital twin of any structure or building.

These new AR-enabled headsets are based on Microsoft’s HoloLens headsets, which were created by the company for the entertainment and video gaming industry. Pentagon officials have also said that the technology is a way to boost the awareness of the soldiers, their surroundings, and their ability to spot dangers and targets.

The Army calls it an Integrated Visual Augmentation System and the Army’s website says soldiers tested the gadgets last year at Fort Pickett in Virginia. The system will likely help the army troops have an advantage on battlefields that are highly congested, dark and unpredictable.”

The Army initially started testing Microsoft’s system with a USD 480 million contract in 2018 and said that the headsets would likely be used for both training and in real battle.

Microsoft said that this announcement of the AR headsets marks the transition from prototyping the designs to then producing and rolling them out in the main field.

Many big players in augmented reality have been reluctant or have avoided taking any military contracts but Microsoft has remained undeterred and aggressive in competing for these contracts.

A group of Microsoft workers in 2019 wanted the company to cancel ant Army deal, arguing that it would turn real-world battlefields into video games.

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