Microsoft make US$22 billion worth of AR headsets for US Army

Microsoft has reportedly been awarded a ten year contract worth close to US$22 billion, to provide 120,000 military-grade augmented reality (AR) headsets to the US Army.

Popularised through mobile apps such as Pokémon Go and face filters on social media, AR technology is fundamentally about superimposing digital images over real-world environments.

The AR interface commissioned by the US military is referred to as an “Integrated Visual Augmentation System” (IVAS). It will use Microsoft’s HoloLens headset technology as its base hardware.

As the Army’s press release notes, the device will be used to coordinate soldiers and implement sensing technologies on the battlefield.

Features will supposedly include thermal sensors, machine learning (to create realistic training simulations) and a digital heads up display to enhance soldiers’ “situational awareness”.

The news follows Microsoft’s previous announcement of a US$480 million military contract to develop and supply IVAS prototypes to the army in 2018.

Between this older contract, the new one, and Microsoft’s $10b JEDI cloud computing contract for Azure, Microsoft is set to fortify its position as one of the highest value US defence contractors (alongside Amazon).

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