Magic Leap and HoloLens enter bidding war for military contract

The Army's HUD 3.0 program is looking for augmented reality training headsets. Both Microsoft and Magic Leap are vying for the large contract.

Magic Leap and Microsoft’s HoloLens are competing for a sizable military contract according to a report from Bloomberg. The US Army is seeking to equip soldiers with augmented reality headsets through its HUD 3.0 program. The Army’s final devices would come equipped with the ability to display maps over real terrain, in addition to night vision, thermal sensing, and a monitoring system for vital signs.

Bloomberg reports that the Army is prepared to spend over $500 million on the contract, with the contracted vendor expected to deliver 2,500 headsets in the first two years, and more than 100,000 headsets in total.

According to speculation, Magic Leap is the frontrunner for the contract. Analysts came to this conclusion after the Army released the requirements for HUD 3.0’s final product, which referred to “waveguide optics,” a technology developed by Magic Leap.

Soldiers sporting the headsets could take part in exercises such as “platoon assaults, simulated ambushes, and chemical attacks,” according to Bloomberg’s story. The headset would capture footage of the exercises for future analysis. Also on the Army’s wishlist of features is aim assistance, the ability to view digital maps, and communications capabilities. The overall goal of HUD 3.0 is to “increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide and engage before the enemy,” according to the Army description of the program.

This isn’t the first time the Army has used virtual reality to train soldiers. In the past, it has employed the use of large-scale VR simulations to prepare soldiers for work in the field. These exercises took place in an entirely digital setting, however, whereas HUD 3.0 looks to take the training out into the field using real-world settings and scenarios.

Magic Leap’s ability to secure the contract would cap off an eventful 2018 for the startup. In August, the company officially released its headsets for developer use, and earlier this year it received a generous boost in funding. Microsoft isn’t just letting Magic Leap get ahead of the game, however, as they prepare to unveil the HoloLens 2 headset.   

The Army kicked off the RFP process for the HUD 3.0 contract in early August, and hopes to finalize a decision by the end of November, with the winner significantly ramping up production of the headsets shortly thereafter.   

Sam has been freelancing since 2016, and has bylines at IGN, PCGamesN, PCGamer, and Unwinnable. When not writing about games, he is most likely taking care of his two dogs or pretending to know a lot about artisan coffee. Get in touch with Sam by emailing him at sdesatoff@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter.