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Microsoft to supply U.S. Army with thermal, night-vision AR goggles

The $480 million contract could lead the company to make more than 100,000 augmented reality headsets for the military.

  • Microsoft is set to make prototypes of AR headsets that will feature capabilities including night vision, thermal sensing and instruments that measure vital signs.
  • The military already uses AR in some applications, but it's yet to implement the relatively new technology on a large scale.
  • It's unclear whether Microsoft employees will protest the recently announced contract.

Microsoft is set to supply the U.S. Army with augmented reality goggles to make soldiers more deadly in combat by helping them "detect, decide and engage" enemies, according to a government document.

The technology giant won the $480 million contract to supply prototypes to the military earlier this week, according to a Bloomberg report. Eventually, the two-year contract could lead Microsoft to make more than 100,000 AR headsets for the Army.

"Augmented reality technology will provide troops with more and better information to make decisions. This new work extends our longstanding, trusted relationship with the Department of Defense to this new area," a Microsoft spokesman wrote in a statement.

The prototypes will likely be something like a modified version of Microsoft's HoloLens, a consumer-grade AR headset that has a self-contained Windows 10 computer and currently costs upward of $3,000. In a government proposal written before Microsoft was announced as the winner, the Army expressed interest in buying AR headsets with night vision and thermal sensing, hearing protection, concussion monitoring, and instruments that measure vital signs like breathing and "readiness."

AR in the military

The U.S. military currently uses AR in headsets for fighter-jet pilots and for ground soldiers in training scenarios, but it's yet to implement the technology on a large scale. This new deal, along with a recent surge of demand for AR in the defense sector, will likely change that. The AR/VR defense market is estimated to grow to $1.79 billion by 2025, more than tripling its value of $511 million in 2017, according to a 2018 report called Military Augmented Reality Market to 2025.

As the U.S. augmented reality company Jasoren wrote in a blog post, AR could benefit the military through:

  • Increased situational awareness
  • Less costly combat training
  • Safer training environments
  • More accessed mission rehearsals
  • Terrain diversity and customization
  • Real-time targeting aid
  • Enhanced spatial awareness
  • Engaging mission planning.

Will Microsoft employees resist?

It's a virtual certainty that the military will someday adopt these technologies on a large scale. But what's unclear is how Microsoft employees will react to the news in the coming weeks, especially in the light of the recent walkouts by Google employees due to their company's involvement in Project Maven, in which Google is helping the Department of Defense better analyze drone footage, and Project Dragonfly, a deal with the Chinese government to build a censored search engine in China.

Is the universe a graveyard? This theory suggests humanity may be alone.

Ever since we've had the technology, we've looked to the stars in search of alien life. It's assumed that we're looking because we want to find other life in the universe, but what if we're looking to make sure there isn't any?

According to the Great Filter theory, Earth might be one of the only planets with intelligent life. And that's a good thing (NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team [STScI/AURA]).
Surprising Science

Here's an equation, and a rather distressing one at that: N = R* × fP × ne × f1 × fi × fc × L. It's the Drake equation, and it describes the number of alien civilizations in our galaxy with whom we might be able to communicate. Its terms correspond to values such as the fraction of stars with planets, the fraction of planets on which life could emerge, the fraction of planets that can support intelligent life, and so on. Using conservative estimates, the minimum result of this equation is 20. There ought to be 20 intelligent alien civilizations in the Milky Way that we can contact and who can contact us. But there aren't any.

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The key to better quality education? Make students feel valued.

Building a personal connection with students can counteract some negative side effects of remote learning.

Future of Learning
  • Not being able to engage with students in-person due to the pandemic has presented several new challenges for educators, both technical and social. Digital tools have changed the way we all think about learning, but George Couros argues that more needs to be done to make up for what has been lost during "emergency remote teaching."
  • One interesting way he has seen to bridge that gap and strengthen teacher-student and student-student relationships is through an event called Identity Day. Giving students the opportunity to share something they are passionate about makes them feel more connected and gets them involved in their education.
  • "My hope is that we take these skills and these abilities we're developing through this process and we actually become so much better for our kids when we get back to our face-to-face setting," Couros says. He adds that while no one can predict the future, we can all do our part to adapt to it.
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Study details the negative environmental impact of online shopping

Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.

A truck pulls out of a large Walmart regional distribution center on June 6, 2019 in Washington, Utah.

Photo by George Frey/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
  • Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
  • Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
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Personal Growth

Childhood sleeping problems may signal mental disorders later in life

Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.

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