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US Army awards $480 million contract for Microsoft's Hololens

Augmented reality headset prototypes will be developed to increase "lethality, mobility, and situational awareness"

A bidding war between Microsoft and Magic Leap for a US Army contract to develop AR devices has concluded, with Microsoft emerging as the victor.

The $480 million contract is for the army's Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) program, which will see the development of prototype Hololens devices that will improve soldiers' "lethality, mobility, and situational awareness."

"There is an operational need for the IVAS capability to regain overmatch against peer and near peer threats, as well as the need for improved training and simulation tools to provide the warfighter with the ability to train and rehearse using the same equipment utilized in actual operations," reads the program's statement of objectives.

Essentially, the goal is for a visor or goggle that can overlay a HUD with various features to assist soldiers in combat, such as remote viewing of weapon sights, thermal and night vision, physical assessment of the wearer (including heartrate, concussion detection, and breathing rate). The device would also include a mixed reality training protocol.

The program will begin with a limited amount of "production-equivalent" systems over a 24-month period, with intent of a rapid turnaround between testing the prototypes, fixing any issues, and testing again in order to eventually procure a finished headset by Q4 of 2020.

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

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