Report: Microsoft Expects Negative Feedback About Military HoloLens

Posted on March 17, 2022 by Laurent Giret in Hardware, Microsoft HoloLens, Wearables with 9 Comments

Microsoft’s contract with the Pentagon to build a HoloLens-based mixed reality headset for the US military is not going as well as expected, according to a new report from Business Insider. While real-world testing is expected to kick off in two months, Microsoft is reportedly getting prepared to receive negative feedback from its client during an upcoming hands-on event next week.

In a leaked email obtained by Business Insider, a Microsoft employee told the company’s military contract team to get ready to hear some negative feedback during this final “soldier touchpoint” event before operational tests begin in May. “We (Microsoft) are going into the event expecting negative feedback from the customer. We expect soldier sentiment to continue to be negative as reliability improvements have been minimal from previous events,” the Microsoft employee wrote.

According to the email, Microsoft is concerned about the soldiers’ reaction to the headset’s sub-par low-light and thermal imaging performance. “Sounds like the Army is coming in with low expectations to which might be advantageous as the expectations/delivery delta might not be big,” the leaked Microsoft email also says.

Frank X. Shaw, CVP of Communications at Microsoft told Business Insider that the upcoming soldier testing event is “part of an ongoing process to engage directly with the soldiers to further improve and enhance the device.” Still, the timing for the event isn’t ideal as the US Congress recently withheld $349 million in procurement funding for Microsoft’s AR goggles in its fiscal 2022 defense package.

With only $405 million left on the table, Microsoft is believed to not be able to recover its costs, according to a person familiar with the contract. “Internally, some close to the project fear the Army will simply walk away from the contract,” Business Insider reported. However, Microsoft’s Frank Shaw dismissed these concerns. “The funds that Congress has allocated enables us to continue to invest in the program, iterate on the device, and deliver on the Army’s initial order,” the exec said.

Microsoft’s contract to build 120,000 custom HoloLens headsets for the U.S. Army is worth up to $21.88 billion over ten years, which is pretty massive. However, there seems to be some uncertainty within Microsoft regarding the future of the platform, with several employees leaving to competitors including Meta/Facebook. Still, Microsoft denied a previous report from Business Insider claiming that HoloLens 3 had been scrapped in recent months.

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Comments (9)

9 responses to “Report: Microsoft Expects Negative Feedback About Military HoloLens”

  1. LT1 Z51

    This is AR right? To me AR, VR, and the Metaverse are all DOA. They are cool toys but I don't think the technology is viable long term.


    Maybe I'm wrong, but the only way I see this succeeding is when people want to plaster Ads all over the place. And no thanks to that.

    • bluvg

      I was going to make a joke about expecting negative feedback because of the ads, but you beat me to it. Or perhaps a Clippy-like "It looks like you're trying to inject someone with lead. Would you like help?"

  2. eric_rasmussen

    I think AR is inevitable, but whether it goes dystopian with ads everywhere or is actually helpful to people depends on consumer reaction.


    But imagine having Google's Directions app highlight the lane you should be in, and hover an arrow in the air at the next turn you should take. You could keep your eyes entirely on the road and have a better time with the directions.


    Or, imagine seeing the keys highlight on a piano that you're learning to play. Or having an instructional video on plumbing / car repair / etc. exactly where you need it while you're working. Or walking into a social circle and seeing people's names floating above their heads so you don't have to ask for names.


    There are tons of possibilities to make the device even more personal than a cell phone is to people today. I don't think there is any way this won't happen eventually, but I highly doubt at this point that Microsoft will be the one to deliver on the dream they first presented when HoloLens was announced.

    • bluvg

      For what it's worth, they have pianos like that already. For example, Native Instruments' Kontrol series has color LEDs by each key, and can even do things like silence notes that are not in the current key.

    • chrisrut

      I agree Eric. It's fair to say the dream is taking longer to materialize that some hoped (and others hyped), but I agree it's as inevitable as the sunrise. Augmented humans are the future. Oh, silly me; augmented humans are already here... So, "ever-more-augmented" are the ongoing future. So it goes for a species of tool-makers.

    • LT1 Z51

      The idea is good, BUT, and a big but at that, it won't be implemented in this complex way.


      There will be easier and cheaper ways than AR. HUDs in cars already do this, if the HUD could interface with your phone why do you need AR? Or perhaps V2X becomes a thing and the road broadcasts a color.


      The technology today is DOA. This whole I need to wear special goggle or whatever is not going to work. It's also why VR is DOA. And without that, the MetaVerse, pointless.


      Perhaps for the ultra rich it will be cool.

    • mattbg

      There are tons of possibilities, but so many of them require use case-specific investments to feed data from the real environment to the device and they are not going to be worth the effort.


      It's a nice idea for instructional videos to tell you what to do in the real world, but it doesn't seem realistic that a consumer device would be able to interpret what is going on in a given situation without any data inputs and match that to instructions in any meaningful way. In your plumbing scenario I'd be surprised if it could even tell the hot pipe from the cold pipe.


      Even showing someone's names above their heads would require those people to agree to expose their names. A bunch of people walking around an event in headsets just so that people don't have to read the name tag around their neck does not seem like a good use of technology.


      On the other hand, walking a factory floor that is outfitted with 5G and a multitude of sensors and seeing critical issues raised right in front of you could absolutely be done. That's expensive, but the expense can be justified.


  3. pungkuss

    THIS is how tax dollars are spent. Almost 22 billion dollars over 10 years for an untested product. I can't even blame Microsoft for taking advantage of them either... They have to spend the 10.5% of the budget going to defense somehow, why not sell them this pipe dream.

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