A US Army soldier wearing a prototype IVAS headset. US Army
The US Army awarded a contract worth up to $21.9 million to Microsoft to supply soldiers with futuristic augmented reality headsets, the service and the company announced.
The Army's Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) headset, which is based on Microsoft's HoloLens technology and for which the company initially received a $480 million contract to help develop over the past few years, is moving into the production and fielding phase. The new contract is for up to 10 years.
The Army said that the new contract moves the service closer to delivering "next-generation night vision and situational awareness capabilities to the Close Combat Force."
The high-tech IVAS heads-up display connects to the cloud and gives soldiers access to a wide array of digital tools on the battlefield.
A soldier wearing a prototype IVAS headset. US Army
In addition to the digital thermal, night-vision, and low-light sensors with a 180-degree field of view on the heads-up display that not only help soldiers fight in the dark, but also through smoke and other obscurants, the headset also offers holographic 2D and 3D maps and the ability to track friendly and enemy forces on the battlefield.
The heads-up display, which this Insider reporter previously had the opportunity to try out, can provide facial recognition, intelligence collection, and visual text translation services.
The IVAS headsets also connect with other systems, such as the Family of Weapon Sights - Individual on a soldier's rifle that lets them see what the weapon is pointing at in their display for accuracy when shooting from the hip or around corners.
The advanced headset can also be connected to various drones, such as the personal Black Hornet helicopter drones or the much larger quadcopters, for improved battlefield reconnaissance.
Across the board, a major advantage of the goggles is situational awareness through data, more than soldiers have ever had.
The Army has also been experimenting with using IVAS for simulated combat training by allowing soldiers to wage war against augmented reality enemies in a digital world where data can be collected and returned as feedback in an after action review.
Throughout the development process, the Army repeatedly presented prototypes to soldiers to get their feedback and suggestions on how the technology could be improved.
"There are a lot of features on it that are pretty futuristic," an Army platoon leader from the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, who took part in one of these development events, said in an Army statement.
"I can see how this is going to make a great impact on the way we fight," the soldier said.
Commenting on the lucrative contract for the new heads-up displays, Microsoft said: "We appreciate the partnership with the US Army and are thankful for their continued trust in transitioning IVAS from rapid prototyping to rapid fielding."
The Army's plan has been to begin fielding the new headsets later this year.
The US Army struck a deal worth up to $22 billion with Microsoft for these futuristic headsets soldiers will wear in combat
The high-tech heads-up displays are like something out of Iron Man and give soldiers access to a lot of augmented reality and digital tools.