The U.S. Army and Microsoft are working together on the production of augmented reality headset designed to bring enhanced night vision, situational awareness and information sharing to U.S. soldiers.
The Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) was in prototyping and now moves forward to production and rapid fielding, according to announcements from Microsoft and the U.S. Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier.
The IVAS headset is based on HoloLens and is augmented by Microsoft Azure cloud services that provides soldiers with a single platform to fight, rehearse and train in a variety of situations, Microsoft and the Army say.
According to the Army, multiple technologies are aggregated into the device.
“The suite of capabilities leverages existing high-resolution night, thermal, and Soldier-borne sensors integrated into a unified Heads Up Display to provide the improved situational awareness, target engagement, and informed decision-making necessary to achieve overmatch against current and future adversaries,” the Army said in a press release.
“The system also leverages augmented reality and machine learning to enable a life-like mixed reality training environment so the CCF can rehearse before engaging any adversaries”
Neither Microsoft nor the Army detailed the specifics of the deal in their announcements, but multiple media reports suggest the deal is for more than 120,000 headsets and is worth up to nearly $22 billion over 10 years.
This could give the augmented- and mixed-reality sector a boost and help it become more mainstream, especially as organizations look for new digital tools to enhance their hybrid work experiences.
Microsoft has been one of the pioneers of this technology, as the HoloLens has been under development since at least 2016. The company also recently announced its Microsoft Mesh platform, a new platform that will initially allow people to express themselves as avatars in shared virtual experiences and over time use holoportation to project themselves.
According to CNBC, Microsoft gave the army prototypes of the IVAS system in 2018 in a deal worth $480 million. The Wednesday announcement signals moving from the prototype into a final production phase.
Microsoft markets the HoloLens as an “untethered mixed reality device with apps and solutions that enhance collaboration.” According to the company’s website, single HoloLens headsets are available for $3,500.
Other versions include an industrial edition, development edition, and versions with Dynamics 365 Remote Assist, although price and availability differ.
Microsoft has a recent history of working with the Pentagon, including a $10 billion cloud computing contract that it won in 2019, but Amazon is challenging that award.