Microsoft has won a $480 million contract to provide US Army soldiers with HoloLens devices for training and combat missions – a significant step forward in the adoption of augmented reality technology.

The deal is part of the army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System project, which aims to develop a headset that will increase “lethality, mobility, and situational awareness” for soldiers in action.

The devices used by the Army will differ from consumer versions of HoloLens and must be compatible with helmets already used by soldiers. Among the list of requirements are night vision, thermal sensing and concussion detection, as well as the ability to monitor and display an individual’s heart and breathing rate.

The contract covers the initial supply of 2,500 prototypes within two years, with potential to ramp up production after that period. The total number of devices could reach 100,000 devices, according to Bloomberg, which first reported the deal.

Microsoft was awarded the contract following a bidding process, with Army  officials eventually selecting HoloLens over systems from rival Magic Leap.

The deal follows the publication in October of an open letter from Microsoft staffers that  demanded the company’s technology not be used for military purposes – a response to Microsoft’s bid for a $10 billion Pentagon Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract. (The company responded in a blog post.)

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