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US Army is deploying Microsoft HoloLens-based headsets in a $21.88 billion deal

The hardware is moving to production phase.

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- 02:44
IVAS augmented reality headset by Microsoft for the US Army

The IVAS headset is based on the Microsoft HoloLens 2.

Microsoft

Microsoft and the US Army have announced that augmented reality headsets based on the HoloLens 2 will enter production, finalizing a prototype that has been in development since 2018. The new contract is significantly larger than the 2018 deal, providing for 120,000 headsets according to a CNBC report. The contract could be as large as $21.88 billion over 10 years.

The Integral Visual Augmentation System "delivers a platform that will keep soldiers safer and make them more effective," Alex Kipman, Microsoft's mixed reality technical fellow, said in a Microsoft blog post Wednesday. "The program delivers enhanced situational awareness, enabling information sharing and decision making in a variety of scenarios."

The hardware looks HoloLens 2-like, but ruggedized and with extra customizations for mobile connection (and extra sensors like thermal and night vision). The HoloLens 2, a $3,500 business-targeted device that went on sale in 2019, layers 3D hologram-like augmented reality overlays onto the real world, and uses hand and eye tracking to interact with apps and objects. It can connect over 5G with accessories.

Microsoft has worked alongside the US Army for two years to create what they call a soldier-centered design for the prototype, Kipman said. The headset will "provide soldiers with the tools and capabilities necessary to achieve their mission."

The US Army's post says the IVAS device "aggregates multiple technologies into an architecture that allows the soldier to fight, rehearse and train using a single platform." It includes high-resolution night, thermal and soldier-borne sensors, which the army said will improve "situational awareness, target engagement, and informed decision-making." 

"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 US Army said.

IVAS augmented reality headset prototype

Another look at one of the IVAS prototypes.

US Army

Previous published articles on the headset by the US Army refer to its ability to communicate with team members through its own radio and to be used for simulations as well as head-up information. A plug-and-play design could swap out new sensors over time.

The hardware uses Microsoft's Azure cloud services to operate. Microsoft already has a cloud contract with the Pentagon worth $10 billion.

In early 2019, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella commented on the initial military contract, saying "we made a principled decision that we're not going to withhold technology from institutions that we have elected in democracies to protect the freedoms we enjoy," after Microsoft employees protested the move

CNET recently tested the HoloLens 2 at home, after Microsoft announced a collaborative cloud platform called Microsoft Mesh that enables collaboration across AR, VR, phones and computers.

When reached out to for comment, a representative for Microsoft referred to us to a contact for the US Army, who confirmed the story and referred to the articles linked to above.

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