After years of testing and modifications, the US Army is moving forward with its customized version of HoloLens 2 from Microsoft.
In separate announcements published on Wednesday, the US Army authorized moving from rapid prototyping to production and rapid field testing.
The Army officially awarded the contract to Microsoft on March 26, according to a statement. A Microsoft spokesperson revealed that the deal is worth more than $21 billion over ten years. Microsoft beat out Magic Leap for the initial contract, worth $488 million, to develop the headset in 2018.
Dubbed Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), the modified HoloLens includes sensors for night and thermal vision to serve up data intended to improve situational awareness, targeting, and decision making in the heat of battle. The headset also runs applications for training that simulate battlefield environments ahead of a mission. The headsets work in conjunction with Microsoft Azure cloud services.
"Microsoft has worked closely with the U.S. 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," said Alex Kipman, technical fellow at Microsoft, in a statement. "We appreciate the partnership with the U.S. 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 U.S. Army Close Combat Force."
One of the ancillary benefits of this project for the private sector is the additional research and development gained by Microsoft through military funding throughout the prototype phase. Microsoft will be able to apply what it has learned to future editions of HoloLens, where we can expect improvements in areas such as size, battery life, and interactivity.
So, while the only way to try out an IVAS for yourself would be to join the Army, you'll still reap the rewards in the future, but likely without the night vision.