US Army’s HoloLens request was denied by Congress

The Army reportedly asked for a whopping $400 million.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Microsoft's Combat Goggles .jpg
Microsoft's Combat Goggles.

Microsoft 

According to a report by Bloomberg published on Thursday, Congress has rejected the U.S. Army's request for funding to purchase more combat goggles from Microsoft. The Army reportedly asked for a whopping $400 million to buy about 6,900 goggles based on Microsoft's HoloLens Headset.

This request was denied because field tests showed the headsets caused "mission-affecting physical impairments," like headaches and nausea.

A new goggles model could be underway

Not all was lost, however, as lawmakers did approve a smaller amount of $40 million to develop a new and hopefully improved goggles model without the limitations of the first version, told Bloomberg Army spokesman David Patterson.

In March of 2021, the U.S. Army awarded Microsoft a fixed-price production agreement to start manufacturing the HoloLens Headsets also called the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS). This award shifted the augmented reality (A.R.) headset's prototyping stage to manufacturing.

The next generation IVAS was meant to provide Close Combat Force (CCF) with advanced night vision and situational awareness capabilities at significant speeds. Furthermore, it was supposed to enhance information sharing and effective decision-making in all combat teams.

At the time, the contract was estimated to be worth up to $21.88 billion over 10 years.

Then, in September of 2022, Microsoft was reported to begin to deliver some of the 5,000 IVAS goggle units after "encouraging results from testing in the field”.

"Douglas Bush, assistant secretary for acquisition, had now 'cleared the Army to begin accepting' the new technology," said Jamal Beck, U.S. Army spokesman at the time.

Trouble brewing

However, trouble was already brewing. The first order for 5,000 goggles had been put on hold due to reservations regarding their performance in March 2021.

Just a month later, in October of 2022, reports began to surface that the smart goggles program had been plagued with delays and performance issues and failed four of six elements in a test conducted by the U.S. Army.

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One of the major flaws of the device was that its display produced a bright glow which was visible from hundreds of meters away. This light could possibly alert enemy fighters of the location of U.S. Army soldiers, putting them at risk of being harmed or even killed.

Another problem with the device was that it provided a limited field of view and peripheral vision. Finally, it also restricted a soldier's movement due to its prevalent size and weight.

In response to all these setbacks, Microsoft has said it's dedicated to improving the technology.

The firm "is committed to working with the Army to further develop [Integrated Visual Augmentation System] technology," a Microsoft spokesperson said in an email to CNET. "The regular cadence of building and testing IVAS ... will help us refine and improve the technology to ensure it brings unparalleled protection and capabilities to America's Soldiers."

Will that be enough to get the company its contract back?