icrosoft is preparing its HoloLens-based Augmented Reality headsets for production and deployment within the U.S. Army. The company will be supplying the army with a version which is specifically tailored for improving the safety and performance of soldiers.
Microsoft announced that they had gained a contract with the U.S. Army last week, this followed an initial contract where the company was awarded a $480 million contract to adapt its HoloLens glasses for the military. With the concept approved and given the go-ahead for roll-out, a new deal was created and is estimated to be worth almost $22 billion to produce augmented reality headsets.
The augmented reality headsets will be used to project computer generated imagery and information over the real world environment and will be supplied to at least 120,000 troops in the U.S. Army.
The augmented reality technology is based on Microsoft’s HoloLens headsets, which was first designed for video games. However Army officials state that the technology will improve soldiers' ability to see their surroundings and identify targets and danger and could be used in both training and on the battlefield. One Army official said the augmented reality headset could be used to help troops gain an upper hand during battle. The technology was first trialed by soldiers last year.
Brad Smith, President of Microsoft, spoke about the augmented reality technology to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee in February. Stating soldiers could use the AR system to see at night and for facial recognition on the battlefield. He also described how it could help in hostage situations by creating an electronic representation of a building, what he called a “digital twin.”
Microsoft commented that the contract is worth up to $21.88 billion for up to 10 years. The contract runs for five years and could be extended for an additional five.
Many technology companies have created augmented reality for video games, including Microsoft, however, the HoloLens 2 has been adapted to suit a variety of different industries. The company also wants the devices to be used to help doctors during medical operations, factory crews in warehouses and others. Users can often control what they see on the device by using voice commands or hand movements.
The augmented reality headset deal is part of Microsoft’s work as a defence contractor. The U.S. military also awarded Microsoft a $10 billion cloud computing contract in September.