Microsoft's HoloLens is now only available to developers for $3,000 and businesses for $5,000. Already starting to make inroads into enterprise, the Redmond giant has just scored a US$450 million contract for a custom variant of the augmented reality headset which they definitely won't be using to play Minecraft. The deal could see the Army purchasing 100,000 HoloLens headsets from the company.
These specifications came through in a document sent to companies bidding for the contract, which included Magic Leap among staples like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.
In case there is any doubt about the actual goal, a government description of the program says flat out that these headsets are meant to "increase lethaliity by enhancing the ability to detect, decide, and engage before the enemy". It wanted a device that could allow for night vision, the ability to measure breathing and other vital signs, offer hearing protection and monitor for signs of concussion.
USA military officials clearly like what they've seen, and they're now ready to deploy augmented reality (AR) tech in live combat missions. It's not clear if Microsoft will get the same kind of pushback on the contract to supply Hololens units, which will be used in live combat. At that point this new version of HoloLens should also be ready for "full-scale production".
The new contract will continue Microsoft's relationship with the Department of Defense. With no consumer-grade units created and developer kits being sold for a hefty $3,000 to $5,000, it's no surprise that a mere 50,000 or so headsets have been sold for use in rather niche situations like training NASA astronauts. In response Microsoft's President and Chief Legal Officer, Brad Smith, wrote about possibly relocating various employees with ethical qualms over some projects. Based on the contract it was awarded, Microsoft will need to deliver 2,500 of these prototype headsets to the US Army within the next two years.
Microsoft recently said, however, that the company would not stop selling software to the United States military.