Microsoft Developing New HoloLens Headsets for Military After Winning $480M Contract

We’ve seen some pretty crazy pieces of military hardware over the past few years, from a high-tech ‘Boba Fett’ helmet used by UK Special Forces to a drone that can fire a sniper rifle all by itself to (what’s appears to be) a real-life equivalent of an AT-ST. Now, Microsoft has announced that it will be creating a new version of the HoloLens for the US military, and it won’t be for just training.

According to Bloomberg, Microsoft won the $480 million contract with the Army to provide new augmented reality headsets that could “incorporate night vision and thermal sensing, measure vital signs like breathing and “readiness,” monitor for concussions and offer hearing protection” in addition to offering traditional AR features. Microsoft apparently beat out AR competitor Magic Leap for the deal, which gives the contractor two years to create 2,500 headsets, then transition into mass production. Though augmented reality headsets have been used to help train soldiers in the past, the new headsets are planned for use in combat, with the goal being to “increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide and engage before the enemy.”

Microsoft’s winning bid comes after a highly publicized objection by some of its employees to Microsoft’s involvement in providing tech to the military, especially in artificial intelligence. The objection focused on the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI), a massive, billion-dollar project that solicited bids from Microsoft, Google, and other tech companies and aimed to make the military “more lethal.”

Despite objections from employees, Microsoft’s President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith recently said the company is “going to provide the U.S. military with access to the best technology … all the technology we create. Full stop.” He also addressed concerns about Microsoft technology being used for war, saying “Artificial intelligence, augmented reality and other technologies are raising new and profoundly important issues, including the ability of weapons to act autonomously. As we have discussed these issues with governments, we’ve appreciated that no military in the world wants to wake up to discover that machines have started a war.”

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