Microsoft and the U.S. Army have reached a collaboration agreement whereby the technology company will sell the military a total of 120,000 augmented reality glasses that will serve to “keep soldiers safe and make them more effective”. The contract amounts to 21.88 billion dollars, according to Techcrunch, and will be active for the next ten years.
The glasses that Microsoft has sold to the U.S. military are the IVAS (Integrated Visual Augmentation System), a system based on its famous HoloLens combined with Microsoft Azure cloud services: “The program provides enhanced situational awareness, enabling information sharing and decision making in a variety of scenarios,” explains Microsoft’s Alex Kipman in an article published on the company’s official blog.
This contract extends one that was already signed in 2018 for $ 480 million and that at the time made quite a noise especially because of the complaint of the employees of the technology company, who protested after this collaboration was made public: “We are alarmed that Microsoft is working to give weapons technology to the US military by helping the government of a country to improve its ability to kill using the tools we build. We did not sign up to develop weapons and ask to have a say in how our work is used,” they said in an open letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who shortly thereafter defended the military use of HoloLens.
The collaboration between Microsoft and the U.S. military goes back a long way: “Microsoft has worked closely with the U.S. military. Over the past two years, and together we pioneered soldier-centric design to enable rapid prototyping of a product to provide soldiers with the tools and capabilities needed to achieve their mission,” he says in the article. After these two years of work, the prototyping phase is complete and now it’s time for the final two stages of the project: production and distribution.
HoloLens has ceased to be a video game-focused technology: in its beginnings, back in 2015, it was presented with prototypes like that famous Minecraft one that presented a malleable scenario in augmented reality; years later Microsoft was turning the intentionality of the project to focus it to a more business use and in fact its latest version, the HoloLens 2 presented in 2019, went on sale at a price of $ 3500 or as part of a subscription service for $ 125 per month.