At a time when the outlook for consumer devices is still uncertain, a large government contract could change Magic Leap's progress on AR.
The development of weapons to increase soldiers' lethality is far from the needs of the consumer AR market. However, the main competitor of Magic Leap --HololensMicrosoft, a developer, is also interested in the military project. The two companies still face major technical hurdles in commercial-grade equipment, and it remains to be seen whether they can meet the military's technical requirements. If we refer to recent trends, large military contracts will undoubtedly be controversial within the company.
The Army project is currently known as HUD 3.0 or Integrated Visual Augmentation System and has been tried in various forms within the Army. It involves the development of an entity head-mounted display device that superimposes digital images into the real world and requires a software platform for both training and combat. Details of the project can be made by the military contractor.websiteA series of public documents is available.
The Army hopes that the eventually formed equipment will integrate night vision and thermal functions, measure vital signs such as breathing and readiness, monitor concussions and provide hearing protection. The website lists plans for initiating initial contracts in November this year. In the first two years of the project, the successful bidder needs to deliver 2500 head shows and has the capability of mass production.
Competition for the HUD 3.0 project was officially launched at a conference in early August, a few days before Magic Leap began selling its first show to the public. According to the instructions posted online, Army officers presented the history of military head-mounted equipment that began with the first night-vision goggles in the 1970s. They then met with 25 companies interested in the contract, including Microsoft, Bosch Allen Hamilton Holdings, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.
The company name of Magic Leap did not appear on the public list of participants. But a company called MLH appeared on the list. Chosen Realities, a subsidiary of Magic Leap, filed documents in May to operate in Florida under the name ML Horizons in the form of "Application for Registration of Virtual Names". ML Horizons has the same address as Magic Leap, and a list of participants includes Magic Leap employees.
Three anonymous people familiar with the matter said that everyone felt that Magic Leap was most favored by the military. But Wally said in the mail that "competition is fair and no supplier is particularly fond of it".
But in fact, the company has kept secret contacts with the military for many years. A former employee, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, said a small number of employees had been vaguely aware of Magic Leap's engagement with the military and felt that their work was not what they had described when they signed the contract. According to the mail records learned by Bloomberg, Magic Leap also had a meeting with the army in January this year.
The technology industry has a long history of cooperation with the military. But recently, government contracts have caused many worries. Alphabet employees protested against the company's involvement in Project Maven, which developed artificial intelligence for the military, and eventually prompted the company to announce that it would not renew the contract. Alphabet's Google employees also refused to participate in a separate cyber security project that could help the company win military contracts. Amazon has also been criticized by the market for selling facial recognition services to the police.
The news that Microsoft sold cloud software for facial recognition to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency also sparked controversy, prompting calls for new government regulations on the technology. Microsoft has already partnered with the U.S. Army and the Israeli military to provide HoloLens equipment for training, with the possibility of signing important battle contracts in the future.
Users who have tried Magic Leap's head-up display may wonder why they are interested in Magic Leap after they understand the military's technical needs. The device is almost completely unsuitable for battlefield extreme environments. The military's application scenarios include forests, deserts and even the Arctic. And Magic Leap's view of commercial consumers is that this device has the best indoor use.