Leading augmented reality headset makers Microsoft and Magic Leap are among the companies now vying for a military contract for battlefield heads-up displays.
Citing bid documents and sources close to the situation, Bloomberg reports that the US Army is seeking technology companies to supply 100,000 headsets at a total price tag of about $500 million, with an initial order consisting of 2,500 units within the first two years of the contract.
Microsoft has confirmed that it attended a pre-bid conference for the US Army's HUD 3.0 project, with Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp., and Raytheon Co. among the other companies meeting with Army representatives.
While Magic Leap wasn't officially listed among the participants, a company listed as MLH with the website "mlhorizons.com" and the same address as Magic Leap is reported to have attended. As Bloomberg reports, Chosen Realities is a Magic Leap subsidiary, and has filed paperwork to do business as ML Horizons.
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Through Chosen Realities, Magic Leap may already have jumped ahead of the competition for the contract. Chosen Realities currently has a contract with the US Army to provide "augmented reality training for dismounted soldiers." Valued at nearly $1 million, the contract is listed as being at phase two of the project.
Based on previous reports from Breaking Defense, HUD 3.0 will display virtual battlefields and enemies in the soldier's field of view for training scenarios.
The Army also wants to provide combat data, such as maps, in the soldier's field of view, instead of forcing soldiers to look down at a tablet for strategic data, as is the practice in some current military operations.
HUD 1.0, or "Enhanced Night Vision Goggles — Binoculars (ENVG-B)," will conclude testing and begin deployment in the field by October. That device displays tactical information and links to specially-modified weapons for targeting.
Army officials have disclosed that they have skipped HUD 2.0 and will move to what they're calling HUD 3.0 due to current technology already surpassing its requirements for the second version.
The contract would be a huge lift for either Magic Leap or Microsoft, as both companies are doing their best to push consumer-grade AR headsets into the mainstream. Research and development to meet the Army's requirements, such as form factor, durability, and ease of use, will be applicable toward engineering headworn models intended for consumer use in the future.
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