US military to finally get Microsoft’s combat goggles worth $21.9 billion

The deal is happening despite Microsoft's tech employees' years-long demands that the military deal be terminated.
Baba Tamim
U.S. Army tests Microsoft's HoloLens technology.
U.S. Army tests Microsoft's HoloLens technology.

Microsoft/US Army 

The United States Army has decided to purchase thousands of Microsoft's HoloLens battle goggles.

Microsoft would begin to deliver some of the 5,000 Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) goggle units after "encouraging results from testing in the field," Bloomberg reported on Thursday.

"Douglas Bush, assistant secretary for acquisition, has now 'cleared the Army to begin accepting' the new technology," said Jamal Beck, US Army spokesman.

The first order for 5,000 goggles was put on hold due to reservations regarding their performance in March 2021.

These augmented reality goggles, which are a modified version of the HoloLens eyewear, give the user a "heads-up display," or a hologram that is projected over their environment and provides more information over what they can already see.

HoloLens glasses cost US $3,500 each and are sold in stores. The eyewear is used by NASA and in a number of industries, including healthcare.

Over the next ten years, the US Army anticipates spending about $21.9 billion on these glasses. The eyewear won't undergo its final test until October, but according to Bush, "The Army remains convinced the initiative will be successful."

The deal is happening despite Microsoft's tech employees' years-long demands that the military deal be terminated.

US Army and Microsoft employee controversy

In 2018, Microsoft and the US Army negotiated an initial agreement worth $480 million.

However, in a letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Brad Smith, a group of Microsoft employees urged the company to void the contract because the technology would be used "to help people kill."

Months later, in 2019, the workers said the company had failed to disclose to the engineers "the intent of the software they are building."

"We are alarmed that Microsoft is working to provide weapons technology to the US Military, helping one country's government' increase lethality' using tools we built," the workers tweeted a letter. "We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used."

Most Popular

In October 26, 2018, Smith replied in a blog post saying that the company believes in "the strong defense of the United States" and that it wants the people "who defend it to have access to the nation's best technology."

"At the same time, we [Microsoft employees] appreciate that technology is creating new ethical and policy issues that the country needs to address in a thoughtful and wise manner. That's why it's important that we engage as a company in the public dialogue on these issues."

Technologies like artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and others are posing fresh, crucial questions, such as whether or not autonomous weapons are possible. And Microsoft's employees' union has "discussed these issues with governments," read the blog.

"We've appreciated that no military in the world wants to wake up to discover that machines have started a war," Smith said in the blog post.

"But we can't expect these new developments to be addressed wisely if the people in the tech sector who know the most about technology withdraw from the conversation."

Microsoft has not officially issued any statement regarding the employees concerns.

message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron