Microsoft wins Army contract to develop, provide augmented-reality headsets

Microsoft, it was announced Wednesday, has won a contract with the U.S. Army to develop and provide over 120,000 devices augmented-reality headsets, which the Army says will allow soldiers to fight, rehearse, and train using a single platform.

An Army press release on Wednesday suggested that the headsets would provide night-vision, thermal vision, and other sensors “integrated into a unified Heads Up Display.”

“The system also leverages augmented reality and machine learning to enable a life-like mixed reality training environment so the CCF [Close Combat Force] can rehearse before engaging any adversaries,” the press release read.

In a statement to CNBC, a Microsoft spokesperson indicated that the deal could be worth up to $21.88 billion over 10 years.

This Microsoft-Army deal comes after a $480 million contract Microsoft was awarded in 2018 to provide the Army prototypes of Integrated Visual Augmented System (IVAS)—production versions of which the technology company will provide in accordance with the new deal.

“The IVAS headset, based on HoloLens and augmented by Microsoft Azure cloud services, delivers a platform that will keep soldiers safer and make them more effective,” Alex Kipman, a technical fellow at Microsoft and the person who introduced the HoloLens in 2015, penned in a Wednesday blog post. “The program delivers enhanced situational awareness, enabling information sharing and decision-making in a variety of scenarios.”

That 2018 deal, however, was not without its controversy. In response to Microsoft receiving that contract, several dozen of its employees signed a letter in protest, condemning the company for providing its technology for “warfare and oppression.”

“We are a global coalition of Microsoft workers and we refuse to create technology for warfare and oppression,” their letter stated. “We are alarmed that Microsoft is working to provide weapons technology to the U.S. military, helping one country’s government ‘increase lethality’ using tools we built.”

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @DouglasPBraff.