Microsoft said Wednesday that it would begin producing more than 120,000 augmented reality headsets for Army soldiers under a contract that could be worth up to $21.9 billion.
The HoloLens headsets use a technology called the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, which will equip soldiers wearing them with night vision, thermal vision and audio communication. The devices also have sensors that help soldiers target opponents in battle.
The deal is likely to create waves inside Microsoft, where some employees have objected to working with the Pentagon. Employees at other big tech companies, like Google, have also rejected what they say is the weaponization of their technology.
But Microsoft has long courted Defense Department work, including a $10 billion contract to build a cloud-computing system. Amazon had been seen as a front-runner to win the contract, but the Defense Department chose Microsoft.
Amazon claimed that President Donald J. Trump had interfered in the process because of his feud with Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive and the owner of The Washington Post. A legal fight over the contract is still active.
Soldiers have tested the Microsoft headsets for two years, the company said. The Army said the devices would be used in combat and training.
Microsoft said its testing of the headsets had helped the Defense Department’s “efforts to modernize the U.S. military by taking advantage of advanced technology and new innovations not available to military.”
The devices will “provide the improved situational awareness, target engagement and informed decision-making necessary” to overcome current and future adversaries, the Army said in a news release.
In 2018, Microsoft won a $480 million bid to make prototypes of the headsets. The Army said Wednesday that the new contract to produce them on a larger scale was for five years, with the option to add up to five more years.