Microsoft to supply U.S. soldiers with HoloLens headsets on the battlefield

Microsoft to supply U.S. soldiers with HoloLens headsets on the battlefield

Microsoft has signed a $480m contract to supply 100,000 HoloLens augmented reality headsets to the USA military - literally doubling the number of HoloLenses that have been sold since its launch more than three years ago.

United States military officials clearly like what they've seen, and they're now ready to deploy augmented reality (AR) tech in live combat missions. "This new work extends our longstanding, trusted relationship with the Department of Defense to this new area", Microsoft told Bloomberg in a statement. Microsoft beat out augmented reality company Magic Leap, among others.

Tensions: The deal is more good news for Microsoft, which overtook Apple as the world's most valuable company yesterday.

The Army would also like to incorporate night vision and thermal sensing into upcoming HoloLens headsets. The custom variant will be created to "increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide and engage before the enemy", meaning that future soldiers will be taking these into the battlefield. Microsoft will reportedly release a new, cheaper model in early 2019.

Only about 50,000 units have been sold so far, according to a recent Microsoft video.

"Augmented reality technology will provide troops with more and better information to make decisions", explained Microsoft.

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The headset has never really been sold as a consumer product, but it's popular with enterprises for manufacturing, training, marketing and other purposes.

The company will also need to be ready to go into full-scale production.

While the U.S. Army already uses Microsoft's HoloLens devices in training, this latest development would bring the headsets onto the battleground and into live combat. Employees recently raised a fuss with Redmond over its deal with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) even though the company had only agreed to supply the agency with email, calendar, and messaging services.

Later that month, Microsoft's President and Chief Legal Officer, Brad Smith, said the company would continue to sell software to the US military.

Microsoft recently said, however, that the company would not stop selling software to the U.S. military. 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.

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