Microsoft secures $479 million augmented reality contract
Microsoft has secured a $479.2 million (approximately €423 million) US Army contract to supply up to 100,000 Hololens augmented reality systems for training and combat use.
Although Hololens is one of the leading consumer-grade headsets, a large consumer market for the technology is proving slow to take off. Its intended use in combat environments marks a significant jump in the use of augmented reality (AR) technology for professional applications.
The prototype Hololens AR system will form the basis for the US Army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) and is set to provide US troops with “the ability to train and rehearse using the same equipment utilized in actual operations.”
It is reported to differ from Microsoft’s consumer-grade model, reportedly incorporating night vision, thermal sensing and vital signs monitoring, measuring breathing, “readiness” and concussion monitoring.
The system will also aim to measure soldiers’ physiological performance in real time and provide aided target recognition to identify relevant threats.
The US government has been seeking to fill the training capability gap that the IVAS system aims to provide since 2009.
The US Army said in a written statement “The IVAS will address this shortfall by providing increased sets and repetitions in complex environments utilizing its STE Squad Capability integrated with HUD 3.0, allowing U.S. forces to conduct ‘25 bloodless battles before the 1st battle’. This platform will provide increased lethality, mobility, and situational awareness”.
Microsoft allegedly faced competition during the bidding process from other leading companies including Magicleap, who produce the Magic Leap One augmented reality system.
The Magic Leap One, which launched in August 2018, is widely considered to be the primary competitor to the Hololens, which retails at $2,295. The Microsoft Hololens retails at $3,000 for the development edition.
Microsoft will be expected to deliver 2,500 headsets within two years.