Ultimately, money from the government won out over employee protest.
After years of controversy, Microsoft’s HoloLens project just got a first order from the U.S. military.
Bloomberg reported Thursday that Microsoft would deliver the initial units of its Integrated Visual Augmentation System (or IVAS) goggles to the military after “encouraging results” from field testing. The goggles, which provide a heads-up display and night vision capabilities for soldiers in the field, are based on modifications to Microsoft’s existing HoloLens augmented reality technology.
TechSkylight reached out to Microsoft and the company declined to comment.
Microsoft first signed a contract with the military to develop combat-modified HoloLens goggles nearly four years ago, in late 2018. The deal, which was worth $480 million, eventually led to internal strife within the company, as some employees felt their work was being used to propagate violence overseas rather than help people. The HoloLens division has also seen its fair share of turmoil at Microsoft, as the creator of the AR goggles, Alex Kipman, left the company in June after sexual harassment allegations surfaced.
Ultimately, pressure from within didn’t stop the military deal from happening. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella defended the decision in early 2019, saying it was a “principled decision” made to help “protect the freedoms we enjoy.” According to Bloomberg’s report, the military could spend up to $21.9 billion over the next decade on the IVAS program, factoring in maintenance costs.
As the program moves forward, it will be worth watching to see if Microsoft employees protest once more, or if things stay all quiet on the Pacific Northwestern front.