Microsoft’s augmented reality headset, the HoloLens, has been in the works for years, but it’s been a while since we’ve heard from it. We saw demos of it in 2015 (opens in a new tab)but Microsoft has been pretty quiet on the technology for the past few years when it comes to a consumer release.
What we’ve heard a lot about is Microsoft’s deal to supply the US military with HoloLens technology. We first got wind of the deal in 2018 (opens in a new tab) with talks of a $480 million contract to help “increase the lethality” of combat missions. It wasn’t until 2021 that Microsoft officially signed a much more expensive $22 billion deal. (opens in a new tab) with the military for military-grade HoloLens supply.
It took a while to get there, but now we’re finally seeing that contract start to deliver. According to Bloomberg (opens in a new tab)Microsoft has started shipping the first batch of military HoloLens headsets.
There were delays in the deal thanks to the system needing adjustments to be fully ready for the military. Although there have been reports of issues within Microsoft’s HoloLens team (opens in a new tab) and leadership (opens in a new tab) for a while, that probably didn’t help get things done. Still, it’s a big deal and the US military clearly wants the technology.
HoloLens augmented reality technology provides a heads-up display giving the wearer additional information through a system called IVAS, which stands for Integrated Audio Visual System. It’s been compared to what a pilot in a jet might see, built into a helmet for soldiers that also includes night vision.
The display could help identify structures, provide distances, highlight moving objects, etc. It looks a lot like a video game user interface, which is a little concerning when you remember that they’re designed to be used in actual combat.
Microsoft has defended its choice to work with the US military (opens in a new tab). said CEO Satya Nadella. “We have made a policy decision that we are not going to withhold technology from the institutions we have elected in democracies to protect the freedoms we enjoy,” regarding the decision, following employee protests (opens in a new tab). It would be nice to see this technology used for more things like sending doctors to the ISS (opens in a new tab) rather than war.