The United States Army is preparing to purchase up to 100,000 HoloLens units from Microsoft, according to a new report. The company was awarded a $480 million contract with the Army for the purpose of supplying augmented reality systems that could potentially be used during training and in combat. The military intends the system to “increase lethality,” among other things.
HoloLens is an augmented reality headset that overlays virtual objects and information over the real world. Microsoft’s existing AR headset is targeted at consumers, among others, but the version supplied to the military will be different in a few ways.
Among other things, the US Army wants a variant that features both thermal and night vision capabilities, as well as hearing protection and the ability to monitor the wearer’s health. Based on the contract it was awarded, Microsoft will need to deliver 2,500 of these prototype headsets to the US Army within the next two years.
The company will also need to be ready to go into full-scale production. Microsoft beat out augmented reality company Magic Leap, among others. The Department of Defense seeks devices that will “increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide and engage before the enemy.”
The augmented reality systems wouldn’t be limited to only training, instead also being deployed on the battlefield. The US Army has previously used Microsoft’s HoloLens for training purposes. The move is likely to prove controversial with the public and some Microsoft employees alike. The topic of private companies providing data and services to the military and government agencies has proven controversial within multiple companies in the past, including Google and Microsoft.