Microsoft has been awarded a contract by the U.S. Army to produce a mixed reality headset called the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) based on the tech giants HoloLens technology.
Microsoft first started prototyping the system back in 2018 when it was awarded a contract for nearly $480 million. The move to production phase could be worth up to $21.88 billion over 10 years.
In a research note, Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said the deal is important for Microsoft because it shows the company can monetize its augmented reality technology. He also said it adds to the narrative that Microsoft is tightening its grip on deals within the DoD and Pentagon following its $10 billion cloud computing deal for JEDI.
Based on HoloLens and augmented by Microsoft Azure cloud services, Microsoft said in a blog post that the IVAS platform will keep soldiers safer and make them more effective by delivering enhanced situational awareness, enabling information sharing and decision-making in a variety of scenarios.
According to the Army, the suite of capabilities leverages existing high-resolution night, thermal, and soldier-borne sensors integrated into a unified Heads Up Display. It leverages augmented reality and machine learning to enable a life-like mixed reality training environment.
The Army said in a news release that its innovative partnership with Microsoft accelerated the development of the IVAS prototype and that its Close Combat Force is benefiting from Microsofts help pioneering Soldier Centered Design, an approach that focuses on modernization and technology to make the individual solider an integrated weapons platform.
A group of Microsoft employees called on Microsoft to drop the prototyping contract back in 2019.
We are alarmed that Microsoft is working to provide weapons technology to the U.S. Military, helping one countrys government increase lethality using tools we built, the employees wrote in a letter addressed to CEO Satya Nadella and President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith. We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used.
Microsoft responded that it was committed to providing our technology to the U.S. Department of Defense, which includes the U.S. Army under this contract.
The U.S. Department of Defense previously awarded a $10 billion cloud computing project to Microsoft for Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI), a massive project to migrate the Pentagons computing infrastructure and data to the cloud.
That decision, which came during the Trump presidency, touched off a dispute between Microsoft and Amazon, which called foul play and said Trump corruption was the only plausible explanation for Amazon Web Services not winning the contract.