The U.S. Army said on Wednesday that it has awarded Microsoft a $479.2 million contract to supply prototype HoloLens augmented reality systems helping soldiers in training and combat missions.
"Augmented reality technology will provide troops with more and better information to make decisions," a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement.
Unlike virtual reality, which promises to immerse goggle-wearing users in new and exciting digital worlds, AR overlays images and data atop the real world.
The contract could eventually lead to the military purchasing over 100,000 AR headsets as part of a program to "increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide and engage before the enemy," according to Bloomberg, which reported the news earlier Wednesday. AR headset rival MagicLeap was also reported to have been bidding for the Army's contract.
In October, Google walked away from bidding a huge Defense Department project because of employee objections to the company's prior involvement with Project Maven and the possibility that the project may not align with Google's principles for ethical use of artificial intelligence.
Microsoft Legal Chief Brad Smith defended the company's bidding on the same project, which involves moving massive amounts of Pentagon internal data and processing power to a commercially operated cloud system.
"We want the people of this country and especially the people who serve this country to know that we at Microsoft have their backs," Smith wrote in a blog post.