The American Army has made the decision to buy thousands of Microsoft's HoloLens combat glasses.
According to Bloomberg on Thursday, Microsoft would start shipping some of the 5,000 Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) goggles systems following "encouraging findings from testing in the field."
According to US Army spokesperson Jamal Beck, Douglas Bush, assistant secretary for acquisition, has now "approved the Army to begin accepting" the new technology.
A first purchase for 5,000 goggles was delayed because of worries about how well they would work in March 2021.
A hologram that is projected over the user's environment and provides more information than what they can already see is provided by these virtual reality goggles, which are a modified version of the HoloLens eyewear.
Each pair of HoloLens glasses costs $3,500 USD and is available in shops. NASA and many other industries, including healthcare, use eyewear.
The US Army plans to spend around $21.9 billion on these glasses over the next ten years. Bush stated that although the final test for the glasses won't take place until October, "The Army remains convinced the program will be effective."
Despite repeated requests for the military contract to be terminated from Microsoft's IT staff, the agreement is still going through.
The US Army and Microsoft staff argue
A $480 million initial agreement was struck between Microsoft and the US Army in 2018.
However, a number of Microsoft employees asked the corporation to cancel the deal since the technology would be used "to help individuals kill" in a letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Brad Smith.
The employees claimed that the business failed to inform the engineers of "the intent of the software they were producing" months later, in 2019.
The employees posted a letter saying, "We are concerned that Microsoft is working to offer weapons technology to the US Military, helping one country's government "enhance lethality" using technologies we made." We expect to have a say in how our work is used. We did not sign up to make weapons. "
In response, Smith wrote in a blog post on October 26, 2018, that the business supports "the strong defense of the United States" and that it wants those who "defend it to have access to the nation's best technology."
"At the same time, we [Microsoft employees] recognize that technology is posing fresh moral and political problems that the nation must thoughtfully and wisely resolve. Because of this, we must participate as a corporation in the public discussion of these issues.
New, important questions are being raised by technologies like artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and others, such as the viability of autonomous weaponry. The blog stated that the Microsoft employees' union has "addressed these problems with governments."
Smith wrote in the blog post, "We've realized that no military in the world wants to wake up and find that machines have begun a war."
But if the tech industry's most knowledgeable participants leave the discussion, we can't expect these new developments to be handled sensibly.
Regarding the employee concerns, Microsoft has not made any public statements.