Microsoft Says Its AR Deal With the US Military Has Hit a “Huge Milestone”
Microsoft made XR news when it entered into a major AR partnership with the US military. Although it hasn’t been smooth sailing so far, the company now says that the project has attained a major milestone.
Preliminary Pentagon reports detail soldiers using the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) next-generation goggles although some reports have suggested that the US military might end up wasting resources on the project.
A Defense Post report says an audit had found that the developers of the IVAS had not met several specific thresholds in the program. The report had also stated that there was insufficient feedback from soldiers on the IVAS Program which cast doubt on whether the force might end up accepting to use the technology, particularly on the battlefield.
A survey by the US Department of Defense on the futuristic augmented reality goggles had yielded both positive and negative results, the report stated.
The headset’s display was a particular weak point when the devices were used in maneuvers as it has a very narrow field of view. Recent reports have also stated that the military HoloLens (IVAS) has not demonstrated suitability for combat.
As recently as March this year, there were some Microsoft employees who still assumed that the hardware could only see minor improvements and that it would face further criticism. Microsoft was even expecting the US Army to terminate the project.
Discontinuation of the project would have been bad optics and a major loss for Microsoft which has staked its prestige and resources on this. Some 120,000 of the AR headsets were ordered by the US military and the contract could see Microsoft rake in $22 billion by 2028. This is a huge financial war chest, even for Microsoft.
Microsoft’s Military HoloLens Reportedly Hit a Huge Milestone
An internal email by Microsoft’s cloud and AI chief Scott Guthrie provides an update on the IVAS project. The email states that a current prototype of the military mixed reality headset has been released for “operational test” which is the next step in the evaluation of the military HoloLens for its “suitability for combat.” Guthrie describes this as a “huge milestone for the team” and a “culmination of years of hard work”.
The next phase for testing the mixed reality headset will be in early May according to a US Army spokesperson. The spokesperson said soldiers have provided positive feedback about the headset and that enough progress had been realized in those technical areas that had occasioned the delay in authorizing an operational test.
Microsoft Continuing to Put an Emphasis on Enterprise Metaverse
Guthrie also heaped praise on an XR meetings project with the global consulting firm Accenture which uses Microsoft’s XR infrastructure software Mesh. He writes that Microsoft has seen “tremendous demand” for the software from customers that want similar projects following a presentation that the company made at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Although there is some uncertainty about the HoloLens, it looks like Microsoft hasn’t completely given up on XR hardware. According to Guthrie, the company is working on better mixed reality hardware and also continues to work on the Mesh collaboration platform which caters to “more immersive Metaverse experiences.” There are rumors that Microsoft is also going into a partnership with Samsung for a new mixed reality device.