Congress blocks purchase of more Microsoft combat goggles

A new version will aim to fix headaches, eyestrain and nausea issues.

Microsoft / DoD

The US government has reportedly passed on buying more HoloLens-based AR combat goggles from Microsoft after discovering the current version has some kinks to work out, according to Bloomberg. So instead of ordering more of the current model, the government approved $40 million for Microsoft to develop a new version.

The updated combat goggles will address test results from last year when 70 soldiers wore the current version during three 72-hour scenarios simulating combat conditions. The results showed that the soldiers suffered “headaches, eyestrain and nausea” and that the system had too many “failures of essential functions.” In addition, more than 80 percent of soldiers who reported discomfort began experiencing it less than three hours into the 72 hours test.

The Army had initially requested $400 million to buy up to 6,900 pairs of the goggles as part of the $1.75 trillion government funding bill. Instead, Congress approved $40 million from that sum to develop the new version. The Army has already given Microsoft $125 million to create a revised model, and it still plans to spend up to $21.9 billion over the next decade for as many as 121,000 devices.

Engadget showroom photography of the HoloLens 2 AR headset.

The Department of Defense contract has significantly boosted Microsoft’s ability to profit from its AR device. Before working with the DoD, the company had marketed the headset for enterprise manufacturing, training and other industrial purposes. Although Microsoft has hinted at an eventual consumer version of HoloLens, the company hasn’t yet announced any specifics — and its plans are hazier after the company has reportedly struggled to form a coherent strategy for its headset.