US Army soldiers will soon wear Microsoft's HoloLens AR goggles in combat

HoloLens

The Microsoft HoloLens

Microsoft has won a $480 million contract to develop an augmented reality system for use in combat and military training for the US Army.

U.S. military officials clearly like what they've seen, and they're now ready to deploy augmented reality (AR) tech in live combat missions. "This new work extends our longstanding, trusted relationship with the Department of Defense to this new area", a Microsoft spokesman said.

Before the contract was finalized, several Microsoft employees wrote an open letter urging the company not to bid on the military's "Project JEDI".

Tensions: The deal is more good news for Microsoft, which overtook Apple as the world's most valuable company yesterday. Now priced at US$5000 each for the standard model, the military version will be upgraded with night vision capabilities, thermal sensing, will offer hearing protection and will be able to measure vital signs including a soldier's combat readiness.

Mashable recently had the opportunity to Microsoft's HoloLens with its competitor Magic Leap.

The US Army, on the other hand, reckons the tech could turn its grunts into bona fide badass killers, noting the HoloLens could "increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide and engage before the enemy". Microsoft will reportedly release a new, cheaper model in early 2019. The government contract is asking Microsoft to provide 100,000 units. With no consumer-grade units created and developer kits being sold for a hefty $3,000 to $5,000, it's no surprise that a mere 50,000 or so headsets have been sold for use in rather niche situations like training NASA astronauts. However, with the Department of Defense opening this contract up to non-traditional military suppliers, it seems clear that the company was able to sell the capabilities of its technology in a combat environment. "When we made a decision to work at Microsoft, we were doing so in the hopes of "empowering every person on the planet to achieve more", not with the intent of ending lives and enhancing lethality", the letter reads. It said the winning bidder would be expected to deliver 2,500 headsets within two years, and exhibit the capacity for full-scale production.

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