Microsoft and the US Army have confirmed that HoloLens 2 augmented reality headsets will go into production, completing a project that has been in progress since 2018. According to a CNBC report, the current contract is considerably greater than the previous one, supplying 120,000 headsets. Over the course of ten years, the deal will be worth $21.88 billion.
According to a US Army statement, “the device also leverages augmented reality and machine learning to allow a life-like mixed reality training environment so the Close Combat Force (CCF) can practice before engaging any adversaries.” In February, the Army demonstrated how a newer, more ruggedized version of its heads-up display would allow armored vehicle operators to see through the walls of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, for example. An earlier version was panned for having poor sensor and GPS performance, but as you can see, the design has since evolved significantly. In 2018, Microsoft was awarded a $479 million contract to supply a version of its HoloLens virtual reality headset to the US Army. Some Microsoft employees reacted angrily to the move, forcing Satya Nadella, the company’s CEO, to respond. The phone calls didn’t deter the US Department of Defense and Microsoft from partnering on this new headset.
The IVAS device “aggregates multiple technologies into an architecture that enables the soldier to combat, rehearse, and practice using a single platform,” according to the US Army’s post. The army claims it can boost “situational awareness, target engagement, and informed decision-making” with high-resolution night, thermal, and soldier-borne sensors.
The device also uses virtual reality and machine learning to create a life-like mixed reality training environment for the CCF [close combat force] to practice before fighting any adversaries, according to the US Army.
Since the second version of Microsoft’s mixed reality headset released in 2019, there have been no major hardware updates. Microsoft has been constantly improving the software of its HoloLens headsets, as well as improving hand gestures. Microsoft Mesh, the company’s vision to promote what Microsoft calls “holoportation,” which allows people to appear as themselves in a virtual environment, has recently been added to this.
Although the initial wave of augmented reality and related devices like the HoloLens, Google Glass, and Snapchat Spectacles moved their business models away from end-users and toward commercial, manufacturing, and military applications, space appears to be heating up again. According to reports, nearly a fifth of Facebook’s employees are working on VR and AR, Apple’s former hardware boss has been tasked with overseeing AR and VR specifically, and Samsung, Snap, Qualcomm, and others have been showcasing more prototypes recently.
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