US Army approves order for thousands of Microsoft combat glasses
LONDON – The US military has approved an order for thousands of Microsoft’s HoloLens combat goggles – years after employees of the tech giant demanded the company cancel its contract with the military.
Bloomberg reported Thursday that Microsoft will begin delivering some of the 5,000 units of its Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) glasses after “encouraging results from testing in the field.”
An order for 5,000 glasses was initially placed in March 2021 but was put on hold due to concerns about their performance. Army spokesman Jamal Beck said Douglas Bush, the assistant secretary of state for acquisitions, had “allowed the military to begin accepting” the new technology.
Augmented reality glasses, a customized version of HoloLens, provide the user with a “head view” – which means placing a 3D image over their environment, giving them more information about what they can actually see.
The Army expects to spend about $21.9 billion on goggles over the next 10 years. A final test on the glasses is not expected until October, but Bush said, “The Army remains confident that the program will succeed.”
HoloLens are commercially available and cost $3,500 per set. Goggles are used in a number of industries, including health care, and are used by NASA.
Microsoft and the military brokered the original deal in 2018 for $480 million. Months later in 2019, a group of Microsoft employees called on the company to cancel the contract, as the technology would be designed to “help people kill.” In a letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Brad Smith, workers said the company failed to inform engineers of “the intent of the software they are building”.
Workers wrote: “We are concerned that Microsoft is making weapons technology available to the US military, helping a country’s government to ‘increase lethal force’ using the tools we’ve built.” in the message. “We are not signed up to develop weapons, and we demand to have a say in how our work is used.”
Smith responded in a blog post, saying the company believes in the “strong defense of the United States” and that it wants the people “who defend it to have access to the best technology in the country.”
Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Yahoo News.