US Army awards Microsoft with $480 million HoloLens contract

By Makena Kelly

Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

The US Army has awarded Microsoft a $480 million contract to supply the military branch with as many as 100,000 HoloLens augmented reality headsets for training and combat purposes, according to Bloomberg.

Microsoft beat out other leading augmented reality headset companies, like Magic Leap, which announced that it would be joining the bidding process back in September. Microsoft has had the upper hand, focusing primarily on enterprise markets, unlike Magic Leap, which has focused on the barely-existent consumer market. Microsoft has also previously sold some headsets to the military. But this contract would go well beyond its earlier collaboration, and could greatly expand the reach of the headset.

“Augmented reality technology will provide troops with more and better information to make decisions,” a Microsoft spokesperson wrote in an email to Bloomberg. “This new work extends our longstanding, trusted relationship with the Department of Defense to this new area.”

According to Bloomberg, the military-grade headsets would vary extensively from the existing HoloLens design. They would include thermal sensing and night vision and be used in both training and on the battlefield. Microsoft would be expected to provide at least 2,500 units of the headset to the military branch within the next two years.

Cooperation between tech companies and the US military has become fraught over the past year, with employees penning letters objecting to the deals and challenging leaders in their respective companies to withdraw. Last month, Google pulled out of the bidding process for the Pentagon’s $10 billion JEDI contract. Microsoft has continued to bid on the deal, despite employees disagreeing with the move.