Microsoft has been awarded a $480m contract by the US Army to equip it with up to 100,000 prototypes of Microsoft's HoloLens augmented reality (AR) headsets. According to a statement from the US government, the HoloLens' are going to be used to, "increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide and engage before the enemy".
Microsoft beat out a few strong contenders for the contract, including Magic Leap, one of this year's most anticipated AR devices. However, while Magic Leap has been focused on kick-starting consumer demand for AR devices, Microsoft has been focused on the already -engaged enterprise market and has even sold some headsets to the military before.
Speaking to Bloomberg, a Microsoft spokesman said: "AR technology will provide troops with more and better information to make decisions. This new work extends our longstanding, trusted relationship with the Department of Defense to this new area."
Some tech companies have faced criticism in recent months regarding their choices to work with the US government. Alphabet Inc, Google's parent company, had to pull out a contention for a $10bn contract with the Pentagon because Google workers protested it so passionately. Both Microsoft and Amazon have also faced some backlash for contracts they had taken from the government.
However, unlike Google, Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith doubled down on the company's commitment to working with the government: "AI, AR and other technologies are raising new and profoundly important issues, including the ability of weapons to act autonomously. As we have discussed these issues with governments, we've appreciated that no military in the world wants to wake up to discover that machines have started a war.
"But we can't expect these new developments to be addressed wisely if the people in the tech sector who know the most about technology withdraw from the conversation," he added.
Microsoft will be providing the US army with an initial 2,500 headsets over the coming two years.