On 31 March, the US Army awarded Microsoft with a $22 billion contract to manufacture the HoloLens-based augmented reality headsets for 120,000 soldiers in the Army Close Combat Force (CCF). The headset works on an Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) program that is recently passed from prototyping to the production phase. However, both the US Army and Microsoft have released the news on the contract on different dates.
IVAS integrated HoloLens-based augmented reality headsets will allow soldiers to fight, rehearse and train in one system. Also, the headset is believed to keep the soldiers safe and provide them a virtual perspective of real-time scenarios so that they can have an upper hand in dealing with those circumstances.
According to Microsoft, “The IVAS headset, based on HoloLens and augmented by Microsoft Azure cloud services, delivers a platform that will keep Soldiers safer and make them more effective. The program delivers enhanced situational awareness, enabling information sharing and decision-making in a variety of scenarios”.
Before getting the contract for manufacturing the AR Headsets, Microsoft had a chance to work closely with the US Army for two years for the prototype. The US Army started the prototype test with the Microsoft Team with a $480 million contract in 2018, to give CCF a taste of the IVAS system.
A standard IVAS AR Headset can cost up to $3,500 which enables people to see a Hologram effect over their actual environment. Additionally, the effects can be controlled with a voice command or a hand gesture too.
Microsoft had developed this system originally for the gaming and entertainment industries. Since the news of Microsoft’s contract with the US Army has aired, the stocks of Microsoft raised 1.7% higher with a $235.77 per share value at the end of the Wednesday trading session.
The contract gives Microsoft a 5 years base time to complete the requirements with the availability of the next five years time.
At a meeting in February, Microsoft President Brad Smith told that the IVAS Headset may also contain a thermal night vision and facial recognition system which will provide “real-time analytics” to soldiers on a remote battlefield. He also mentions an amazing service where the headsets could create a “digital twin” of the building to save people from being hostages.
A CNBC Reporter when tried the IVAS Prototype Headset in 2019, where the headset displayed the map and compass and also included the thermal image scanning system which could reveal people in the dark.
Back in 2019, Microsoft also secured a deal to provide cloud services to the Defense Department, leaving Amazon behind. And with the recent contract in the hand, Microsoft becomes a more prominent technology supplier to the US military.