Here's why the U.S. Army wants Microsoft HoloLens headsets

The call of duty necessitates advanced warfare.

What you need to know

  • Microsoft recently won a nearly $22 billion contract with the U.S. Army to produce custom HoloLens headsets.
  • The military's plans for the headsets were left ambiguous.
  • Two Army leaders have now divulged more details discussing how HoloLens will aid the army.

During a Center for a New American Security (CNAS) panel, acting secretary of the U.S. Army John Whitley and General John M. Murray, commanding general of Army Futures Command, gave new insights regarding what the army hopes to achieve with Microsoft's help now that the tech giant has been awarded an almost $22 billion HoloLens production contract (via Fast Company).

Whitley mentioned how this deal has been faster than most prototype development and rollout periods thanks to the use of Other Transaction Authority (OTA), which helps speed along contracting needs outside of Federal Acquisition Regulations parameters. Furthermore, Whitley stated that Microsoft's ability to work directly with soldiers who helped shape the army-attuned headset variants also improved the time taken for units to go from prototypes to budgeted combat tools.

Gen. John Murray explained that the development of the Integrated Audio Visual System (IVAS), which is the military's name for the custom HoloLens headsets with special sensors and Microsoft Azure support, happened in three-week chunks. That allowed for constant feedback from the soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where IVAS was created.

Murray says it's not even known yet what the full potential of IVAS is, but he did give some ideas of potential applications, including:

  • Next-gen night vision, thermal vision, and situational awareness capabilities
  • Using the IVAS sensors to scope out threats instead of risking actual soldiers

What other utilities the IVAS may have remains to be seen, just like it remains to be seen what comes of Microsoft's other big military contract, JEDI.

Virtual warfare

Microsoft HoloLens 2

$3,500 at Microsoft

HoloLens, but better

HoloLens 2 might not be your own personal IVAS, but it's as close as you can get to one without going to war. With a carbon-fiber body, extra padding, eye tracking, and a wider field of view, the headset is built for developers, tech enthusiasts, and anyone who loves being on the bleeding edge.

Here's why the U.S. Army wants Microsoft HoloLens headsets