What you need to know
- In March 2021, Microsoft won a U.S. Army contract to produce up to $21.88 billion of soldier-attuned augmented reality headsets.
- The deal still stands, though delivery times have been pushed back, with field units now expected by September 2022.
Microsoft's sizeable augmented reality headset deal with the U.S. Army, which was awarded in March 2021 to the tune of up to $21.88 billion, has had its dates adjusted. Deployment of the first Microsoft headsets (sometimes referred to as glasses, as those are a prominent component of the tech) is now expected to occur by September 2022.
As reported by Reuters, the previous date the U.S. Army was aiming for has already passed: September 30, 2021. The new date effectively gives the Army and Microsoft an extra year to get their affairs in order.
These headsets are based on Microsoft's HoloLens technology and will give soldiers numerous tactical benefits. These include enhanced night vision and thermal vision, in addition to other unspecified "situational awareness capabilities." And that's not all. The headsets, which have been dubbed IVAS (Integrated Audio Visual System), will also have sensors that enable soldiers to scope out threats before actually putting any lives in harm's way.
Not everyone at Microsoft is happy about the IVAS deal. Some employees have frowned at the idea of their company utilizing its resources to develop tools of war.
This isn't the only government-entangled deal Microsoft's faced opposition over. Its surveillance technology deals even managed to ruffle shareholder feathers not too long ago, hence why the company voluntarily agreed to cue up a third-party investigation to determine if its tech, stated corporate values, and general human rights were in opposition with one another.
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Robert Carnevale is the News Editor for Windows Central. He's a big fan of Kinect (it lives on in his heart), Sonic the Hedgehog, and the legendary intersection of those two titans, Sonic Free Riders. He is the author of Cold War 2395. Have a useful tip? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Well, it's not like MS is producing weapons. If these devices are meant to help soldiers, wouldn't that be a great thing? Some may not be considering that having situational awareness can prevent many unnecessary deaths on both sides, not to mention friendly fire. As with any tool, there will always be those that will exploit its use for malicious intent. At the end of the day, that's not going to be the norm and the benefits of such a device will far out weigh this isolated incidents. It really falls on the Army to have things in place to keep soldiers accountable for their actions.
Agreed. Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint has killed far more people than the IVAS will. Almost every operations starts with a plan developed and briefed through PowerPoint.
For sure. Your perspective on the matter is a popular one. It's a fair argument. Though, the IVAS' capabilities are designed with killing in mind at least to some extent, so you can see where the unhappy MS employees are coming from, yeah? If they signed on to make civilian equipment, these sorts of jobs probably don't feel good.
No. The MS employees are not right.
1- MS has a large government services business and always has. That has always included the military.
2- MS is a for profit business and their execs owe the stockholders the best returns they can achieve. Does anybody doubt Nadella would be fired overnight if he passed on a $22B contract?
3- The execs work for the stockholders not the self-entitled staff. If the employees' ideology runs counter to the company's needs they can and should quit. Anything else is hypocritical virtue signaling. Beyond that, tech spinoff is a real thing, where new technologies start out too expensive for civilian applications but over time serving niche markets evolves to more affordable civilian versions. Besides, thousands of companies produce dual use products and technologies and it is self-serving to single out any one company. If they care that much about their ideology, they can go elsewhere. For that matter, where were they when Google was selling top rate AI tech to the Chinese military while refusing to work with the US DOD? Nope.
Business and ideology don't mix.
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