The US Congress blocks a $400 million order for Microsoft’s HoloLens fighter

The US Congress blocks a $400 million order for Microsoft's HoloLens fighter

Photo: US Army

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The Microsoft AR combat headset for the US Army remains a project with many hiccups.

If you thought Microsoft’s military Hololens IVAS was out of the woods after the US Army’s recent order of 10,000 combat headsets, you’re wrong: The US Congress blocked another order of 6,900 headsets worth $400 million for the current fiscal year.

Instead, the US Army will receive 5,000 headsets solely for training purposes while Microsoft develops Improved version 1.2.

The versions of the headset that have shipped so far are 1.0 and 1.1, which have significant technical flaws, according to previous military reports. Soldiers reportedly experienced headaches, eye discomfort, and nausea during the tests, which lasted less than three hours.

AR technology needs to get better

Instead of $400 million to ship more of existing headsets, lawmakers released just $40 million this fiscal year to develop an improved version of IVAS, Bloomberg reports.

The US Army had already committed $125 million to military development Hololens 1.2 in late December. The money came from the previous year’s budget.

The contract calls for improvements to deficiencies identified in previous test missions. Version 1.2 of the combat headset is supposed to offer a new form factor, a “lower-profile display” and greater comfort, with better distributed weight and a new user interface.

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In a previous report, one tester stated that IVAS “would have killed us” because of the bright, highly visible display lights. IVAS 1.2 is also supposed to run more reliably and consume less power.

The military continues to rely on Microsoft

The US Army writes: “The Army is fully committed to IVAS and the jump-start capability it will provide Soldiers for victory on the battlefield.” The “phased fielding” of IVAS is scheduled to begin in September 2023.

Theoretically, Microsoft could deliver 120,000 headsets worth $22 billion to the US military over the next 10 years — assuming the company can still handle complex augmented reality technology. Project IVAS has been running since 2018 and aims to provide American soldiers with auditory and visual superpowers like those found in computer games. They can see friends and foes through walls, for example, or have automatic aiming assistance.

Microsoft did not comment on the news. The Redmond company also keeps a low profile when it comes to the commercial version of Hololens. Recently, the head of Microsoft XR gave a hint that Microsoft is still working on Hololens and that an update might appear, but without being specific.

Sources: Bloomberg, US Army


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