Microsoft seals $21.9 billion contract to build custom AR headsets for US Army 1

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The custom augmented reality headset, based on HoloLens from Microsoft, will enter the field later in 2021

Quick read

CNBC is reporting that the contract, worth up to $21.9 billion over 10 years, greenlights production of more than 120,000 headsets
➨ Microsoft has been working on the custom headset, known as the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), since 2018
➨ IVAS consists of a head-mounted display that connects to a small computer and radio. It boasts night vision and can show a soldier battlefield information about the location of enemy combatants and their own unit

The story

Microsoft has won a $21.9 billion contract to build custom augmented reality headsets for the US Army, according to reports.

CNBC is reporting that the contract, worth up to $21.9 billion over 10 years, greenlights production of more than 120,000 headsets.

Microsoft has been working on the custom headset, known as the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), since 2018. That contract was worth an estimated $480 million.

While using Microsoft’s technology, it’s very much custom-built for the US Army.

IVAS consists of a head-mounted display that connects to a small computer and radio. It boasts night vision and can show a soldier battlefield information about the location of enemy combatants and their own unit.

The headset also highlights targets, uses facial recognition software to identify others, translates various languages into English, and allows soldiers to share digital information, including map coordinates and imagery of what’s happening on the battlefield.

Soldiers and marines invested tens of thousands of hours in user studies, field testing, feedback and assessments, including four comprehensive large-scale tests scheduled at pivotal junctures in the 28-month programme.

Microsoft seals $21.9 billion contract to build custom AR headsets for US Army 2
A training exercise using IVAS

During an event at Fort Pickett in Virginia, participants from the 82nd Airborne Division and a contingent of marines conducted company-size training exercises using the first militarised prototype of IVAS. These included land navigation, live fire, mission planning, rapid target acquisition, trench clearing, after action review using augmented reality, and more.

Feedback received from tests such as this has been used to make important changes to IVAS. For example, the field of view in both width and height were increased based on user feedback.

More recently, IVAS was tested at the US Army’s Cold Regions Test Center at Fort Greely, Alaska.

In a statement, Microsoft technical fellow Alex Kipman says: “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 programme delivers enhanced situational awareness, enabling information sharing and decision-making in a variety of scenarios. Microsoft has worked closely with the US Army over the past two years, and together we pioneered soldier centered design to enable rapid prototyping for a product to provide soldiers with the tools and capabilities necessary to achieve their mission.”

“We appreciate the partnership with the US Army, and are thankful for their continued trust in transitioning IVAS from rapid prototyping to rapid fielding. We look forward to building on this successful partnership with the men and women of the US Army Close Combat Force.”

The US Army expects to receive the device at the end of this year.

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Images: US Army

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