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Microsoft wins $ 479 million contract with the military for augmented reality systems



Image: Altaf Qadri (AP)

Bloomberg announced on Wednesday that Microsoft has signed a $ 479 million contract with the IVAS (Integrated Visual Augmentation Army) system prototypes, strengthening its relationship with the military and eliminating many other rival companies.

According to the government's proposal, the program aims to "accelerate deadly defensive and offensive capabilities by using innovative components". Bloomberg said the deal could lead the military to buy more than 100,000 augmented reality headsets from Microsoft, positioning the military as a massive consumer of its HoloLens technology. The specifications provided by the military indicate that the devices appear to be intended for use in active combat roles:

He expects devices to differ from their mainstream counterparts in a few key ways. In a document common to companies bidding for the contract, the Army said it wanted to incorporate night vision and thermal detection, measure vital signs such as breathing and "availability", monitor concussions and offer protection of the hearing. He specified that the successful bidder should deliver 2,500 headsets within two years and demonstrate a large-scale production capability.

"Augmented reality technology will provide troops with more and better information for making decisions," a Microsoft spokesman told Gizmodo in an e-mail release. "This new work expands our long-standing relationship of trust with the Department of Defense in this new area."

The contract represents a notable loss for competitors such as Magic Leap, which, according to Bloomberg, is part of more than two dozen companies that have met the military (although the fact that Magic Leap has never been a serious contender is perhaps debatable).

As Bloomberg noted, the news of the contract was announced while Microsoft and its employees were in conflict, which raised concerns about its bid for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract, a contract for Military cloud computing potentially valued at $ 10 billion. Microsoft employees have also expressed concerns over other contracts with government agencies that are subject to criticism on human rights grounds, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"Many Microsoft employees do not think that what we build should be used to wage war," Microsoft employees wrote in an open letter last month. "When we decided to work at Microsoft, we were doing it in the hope of allowing every person on the planet to increase his performance, and not with the intention of ending lives and increasing lethality.

The company's president, Brad Smith, later defended the company's decision to offer its technology for use by the military, citing essentially patriotism and claiming that society believed "in the solid defense of the states". United States "through state-of-the-art technology like his.

Smith also highlighted his ongoing relationship with the Defense Ministry, saying the JEDI bid was simply an extension of his services to an army already heavily dependent on its technology. He included a strange tangent that seemed to suggest that the military should have access to Microsoft technology, as soldiers freed slaves during the civil war and fought the Nazis:

We have decided this summer to continue this project, given our long-standing support of the Department of Defense. We who live in this country all depend on his strong defense. The people who serve in our armed forces work for an institution with a vital role and a critical history. Of course, no institution is perfect or proven, and this is the case of the US military. But one thing is clear. Millions of Americans have served and fought in important and just wars, including helping liberate enslaved African Americans up to civil war and liberating tyrannized nations throughout the world. Western Europe during World War II. Today, the citizens of our armed forces risk their lives not only as the country's first line of defense, but often as the country's first line of aid against hurricanes, floods, tremors land and other disasters.

You're not sure there's an ideal way to defend your company's dubious business relationship with the military-industrial complex, but that's certainly not the case.

[Bloomberg]

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