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Microsoft workers revolt against Army’s planned combat use of HoloLens

Microsoft workers revolt against Army’s planned combat use of HoloLens
[Photo: efes/Wikimedia Commons]

A group of Microsoft employees who worked on the company’s HoloLens headset are angry that the U.S. Army plans to use the augmented reality device in battle, not just in training.

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The group, called Microsoft Workers 4 Good, sent a letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and president Brad Smith requesting they cancel the company’s $480 million contract to supply the devices. The group said the contract terms had “crossed the line” into combat applications.

A HoloLens headset [Image: Flickr: Franklin Heijnen]
The contract, according to the employees’ letter, says the Army intends to use HoloLens to “rapidly develop, test, and manufacture a single platform that soldiers can use to Fight, Rehearse, and Train that provides increased lethality, mobility, and situational awareness necessary to achieve overmatch against our current and future adversaries.”

The contract could eventually lead the military to buy more than 100,000 headsets from Microsoft, Bloomberg reported in November. (Last spring, Microsoft said it had only sold 50,000 of the devices in total.)

“Augmented reality technology will provide troops with more and better information to make decisions. This new work extends our longstanding, trusted relationship with the Department of Defense to this new area,” a Microsoft spokesman said in a statement to Bloomberg at the time.

Smith had said that Microsoft employees who have ethics problems with the application of the products they work on can move to work on other products within the company. To which Microsoft Workers replies:

“There are many engineers who contributed to HoloLens before this contract event existed, believing it would be used to help architects and engineers build buildings and care, to help teach people to perform surgery or play the piano, to push the boundaries of gaming, and to connect with the Mars Rover (RIP).”

Microsoft is expected to announce the highly-anticipated Hololens 2 at Mobile World Congress this Sunday.

Related: Rights groups and tech workers unite to swat down Google’s Dragonfly

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