Congress reportedly rejected the U.S. Army’s $400 million request to buy more Microsoft Mixed Reality headsets, instead redirecting funds to develop new models that address issues with current equipment.
After concerns were raised about field tests of goggles based on Microsoft’s HoloLens technology, the military will spend about a tenth of its funding on improving the system, according to Bloomberg.
Citing a summary of the exercise from the Pentagon’s testing office, the outlet reported that tests using the equipment showed “mission-impairing physical impairments,” including headaches, eye strain and nausea.
The $400 million request was included in the $1.75 trillion government funding bill, according to Bloomberg.
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In a Jan. 5 press release, the Army said it had awarded Microsoft a task order to develop version 1.2 of the headset or integrated visual enhancement system.
The order of missions will provide improvements based on completed test events, it said.
“IVAS will provide Soldiers with a single device for combat, rehearsal and training by integrating next-generation situational awareness tools,” the Army said. “To date, the Army has conducted more than 30 soldier test events and more than 100 technology tests. More than 1,000 Soldiers contributed nearly 100,000 hours of IVAS user feedback in sub-tests. These tests validated the system’s continued progress while identifying key areas for improvement.”
The updated version will include a new form factor to address human system integration issues, including physiological effects identified during testing, and software improvements to improve reliability and reduce power requirements.
Delivery orders for IVAS 1.2 production systems will be placed after confirmation and operational testing.
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In addition to the tens of millions approved by Congress, the Army awarded Microsoft about $125 million to develop version 1.2, according to Bloomberg.
In a post, Microsoft said the headsets are part of a broader effort to modernize U.S. military operations.
In 2018, Microsoft won a $480 million contract from the Army to develop a mixed reality headset to “help Soldiers train, rehearse and fight,” and IVAS was developed under an agreement called “Other Transaction Authorization.”
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“This arrangement enabled IVAS to be developed in less than three years, much faster than similar conventional projects,” it said.