The US Army receives the first shipments of augmented reality glasses based on Microsoft Hololens.
What happened now? Microsoft’s controversial $21.9 billion deal with the US Army resulted in the first delivery of augmented reality glasses based on the Hololens design by a military unit. Assistant Secretary of State for Acquisition Douglas Bush cleared about 5,000 glasses sets due to delays due to concerns about their effectiveness.
It was back in 2018 when Microsoft was awarded a $480 million contract to supply the US Army with HoloLens-based augmented reality headsets. The agreement was expanded in March 2021, ensuring Microsoft will provide final production builds, parts and support in a deal that could potentially be worth up to $21.9 billion over a decade. The Army has ordered an initial 5,000 units worth $373 million, of which about 121,000 are to be delivered in the deal.
bloomberg writes that the army is now accepting part of the first batch of goggles. Delivery has been put on hold pending more extensive testing. Based on the results, the service is “adjusting its rollout plan to allow time to correct deficiencies as well as deploy units that are focused on training activities,” spokesman Jamal Beck said.
The Army says the new Integrated Vision Augmentation System (IVAS) integrates high-resolution night, thermal and soldier sensors into a head-up display. Powered by Microsoft Azure cloud services, it also uses augmented reality and machine learning to create a realistic mixed reality learning environment.
Microsoft’s partnership with the military has been far from smooth. Employees at the firm in Redmond wrote an open letter expressing their dissatisfaction with the deal, forcing CEO Satya Nadella to respond. As for the first shipments of headsets, they were supposed to take place in fiscal 2021, but have been delayed by a year.
In April, the Defense Department’s oversight agency warned that the huge amount of money the Army is spending on goggles could be a waste of taxpayer money, as many soldiers weren’t fans of IVAS. Bush noted that there was similar opposition to night vision goggles when they were introduced in the 1970s, but these devices are now widely used by the military.
The final IVAS test report, which will help the army decide whether to continue purchasing goggles, is due next month. It will also help Congress decide whether to approve the $424.2 million the Army wants to spend on the program. The House and Senate Appropriation Commissions have already proposed significant cuts in the request pending test results.