A U.S. government watchdog has warned that the Pentagon has spent more than $ 22 billion on Microsoft’s HoloLens, failing to ask whether the troops would be theoretically responsible for deploying the hardware if they actually wanted to use it or felt any benefit from it. This is such a common observation, one might wonder why the government needed to put it in an audit first. However, this is not the first time we’ve heard rumors that soldiers don’t like HoloLens – or IVAS – because the nature of the war is known.
When Microsoft announced that it would partner with the U.S. military to develop HoloLens into a combat-capable system, the news was controversial both inside and outside Microsoft. Some company employees felt that it was unethical to collaborate directly with the government to develop weapons of war, while some pundits generally felt that the technology was too immature to be used on the battlefield. Earlier this year, news broke that Microsoft could not move forward with HoloLens 3. In March, a leaked memo also indicated that the U.S. military may not be happy with IVAS hardware. A Microsoft employee said:
“We are going to the event expecting negative feedback from customers. We expect soldier sentiment to continue to be negative as reliability improvements have been minimal from previous events. It looks like the military is coming up with low expectations which may be advantageous as the expectations / delivery delta may not be large. “
This audit was prepared by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The document states: “Army testing officers assessed user acceptance from soldiers (sic) who used IVAS during various operational tests and used the results of that survey to make changes to the system. However, IVAS program officials did not set a minimum user acceptance level to determine if it would meet the needs of IVAS users. “
According to the full report, the IVAS was supposed to be built using soldier-centric design. Soldier-centric design, as the name implies, is intended to ensure that the needs of combat troops are paramount when designing relevant equipment. During IVAS development and prototyping, the military consulted directly with soldiers who tested equipment and changed their response. Unfortunately, the military has never clearly defined the specific criteria that IVAS must meet in order to be considered capable of meeting user needs.
The report blackens out all military reactions to actual IVAS capabilities, making it difficult to tell what users actually thought. It seems highly unlikely that the unedited portions of the report would consistently emphasize the lack of appropriate user acceptance if that response were to be appreciated. One can imagine a situation where IVAS has improved in the next generation but has never closed the complex gaps that kept the troops dissatisfied. The Pentagon may still claim that it has taken into account the views of the military (which OIG has done), but if the military does not like the thing, it does not want to use it. According to a memo leaked last month, soldiers were dissatisfied with the device’s low-light performance and its thermal imaging. These are not small features – they are the main reason why the military wants this kind of hardware in the first place. It may be that current technology still does not provide the kind of features that the military wants in terms of the weight of military aspirations and the footprint of energy consumption.