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U.S. Army elaborates on Microsoft HoloLens contract's military utility

Hololens Us Army 2021 Microsoft Press
Hololens Us Army 2021 Microsoft Press (Image credit: Microsoft)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft recently won a nearly $22 billion contract with the U.S. Army to produce custom HoloLens headsets.
  • The military's plans for the headsets were left ambiguous.
  • Two Army leaders have now divulged more details discussing how HoloLens will aid the army.

During a Center for a New American Security (CNAS) panel, acting secretary of the U.S. Army John Whitley and General John M. Murray, commanding general of Army Futures Command, gave new insights regarding what the army hopes to achieve with Microsoft's help now that the tech giant has been awarded an almost $22 billion HoloLens production contract (via Fast Company).

Whitley mentioned how this deal has been faster than most prototype development and rollout periods thanks to the use of Other Transaction Authority (OTA), which helps speed along contracting needs outside of Federal Acquisition Regulations parameters. Furthermore, Whitley stated that Microsoft's ability to work directly with soldiers who helped shape the army-attuned headset variants also improved the time taken for units to go from prototypes to budgeted combat tools.

Gen. John Murray explained that the development of the Integrated Audio Visual System (IVAS), which is the military's name for the custom HoloLens headsets with special sensors and Microsoft Azure support, happened in three-week chunks. That allowed for constant feedback from the soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where IVAS was created.

Murray says it's not even known yet what the full potential of IVAS is, but he did give some ideas of potential applications, including:

  • Next-gen night vision, thermal vision, and situational awareness capabilities
  • Using the IVAS sensors to scope out threats instead of risking actual soldiers

What other utilities the IVAS may have remains to be seen, just like it remains to be seen what comes of Microsoft's other big military contract, JEDI.

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 robert.carnevale@futurenet.com.

8 Comments
  • What happens when the 'threats' start using technology as well, instead of risking their own 'actual soldiers'? Nothing good. Down the rabbit hole we go, is war going to devolve into machines fighting for people while the soldiers play war games on monitors? Maybe we should start thanking our tech for it's service.
  • That's already happening across the board. Other nations have advanced technology, albeit not as advanced as the U.S., and one the other end of the spectrum the Taliban and ISIL have both used commercial drones laden with explosives in combat. This is about maintaining a technological edge to reduce casualties and maximize military efficiency, not about completely replacing soldiers.
  • If you think this will be used to reduce casualties, you're naive and haven't seen how US militaristic action actually plays out.
  • Derpity, If you read the facts, something is quite clear. As the lethality of a weapon system rises, the number of casualties declines. Why? Because you kill what you see versus drop a bunch of bombs and hope you kill your enemy. Lethality is actually a probability. Each weapon system has a probability of making a kill. If I point my gun at you, am I likely to hit you. Are you moving? Are you wearing body armor? How far away are you. What is the crosswind speed? There are many variables that control the probability I will hit you if I shoot at you. IVAS improves my probability of hitting you. Why? Because the gun I am carrying has a sophisticated gun sight that measures distance, crosswind, etc. determine where my bullet will go if I pull the trigger. All I do is transfer the aim point to my IVAS and I can see where my bullet will hit. Hence I am a better marksman. If I carry 50 bullets and my probability of hitting my target is 95% versus 50%, I will be far more lethal on the battlefield. The enemy might kill me, but I am pretty sure I will kill a lot of them before they kill me. That being said, any opposing force that is inferior (less lethal) will quickly dissipate once the shooting starts. People are rational. If they see they are getting hammered, they stop fighting. Just look at the number of casualties as a percentage of combatants from the time of the Alexander the great through today. As lethality rises, casualties (as a percentage of combatants) declines.
  • Did you read any of the reports on the recent Armenia/Azerbaijan conflict?
    Armenia had a bigger, better (conventionally) armed army that was decimated by militarized versions drones. The literally never saw the attacks coming. Tanks, artillery, air defenses, all as useful as the Maginot line. https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidhambling/2020/11/10/the-magic-bullet-d... It's essentially a techie chess game now with both sides looking ahead to the other side's possible moves to guess what technological moves they'll need to make, not just tactical moves.
  • There are three primary factors that determine success on the battlefield: protection, speed/maneuver, firepower. Drones have protection--you cannot easily see them and thus hard to shoot. Drones have speed/maneuver--they can fly and approach the target from any direction. But they don't have much firepower--they can deliver a small payload. Since you cannot see them and thus shoot them, Since drones can fly and attack you from any direction, the small payload they do deliver can be decisive.
  • monkey's killing monkeys over pieces of the ground . 😥😥
  • If the money comes for you you'll be just as dead as any roadkill.
    Defense these days is about looking forward and beyond, not sideways and not back.
    (Back never worked.)