The Army has reportedly paused acquisition of advanced augmented reality headsets for soldiers — less than a year after the service announced it had awarded Microsoft a contract potentially worth close to $22 billion.
The defense intelligence news outlet Janes reported the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology's office paused the service's Integrated Visual Augmentation System and is "essentially doing a reset of that program, figuring out what is the appropriate timeline and where is the technology," Brig. Gen. William Glaser, director of the Synthetic Training Environment Cross-Functional Team, told the news outlet Tuesday.
The deal, pegged to be worth $21.9 billion, was to have equipped soldiers with Microsoft’s commercial HoloLens augmented reality system headsets that provide night vision, thermal vision, and audio communication.
The issues leading to the pause were not clear, Janes reported.
Early prototype IVAS systems weren’t always operational in poor weather but the latest version apparently worked better both outside and within vehicles, The Drive noted.
Questions have also been raised about the batteries soldiers needed to carry in the gear to power the headsets — involving both how long they can keep the systems running and safety concerns if they become damaged, The Drive reported.
In addition, some Microsoft employees anonymously balked at the company’s contracts with the military, writing an open letter in 2018 demanding Microsoft not engage in a $10 billion contract with the Pentagon for cloud services, and another group at the company criticized the HoloLens prototype deal in 2019.
"Whatever the Army's reasons for halting the IVAS program might be, and whether it gets back on track, the decision is certainly not good news for the immediate future of a program the service had been touting as potentially game-changing for individual soldiers," The Drive’s Joseph Trevithick wrote.
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