A group of Microsoft employees has called for the cancellation of the supply of HoloLens headsets to the US Military.
In an open letter titled HoloLens for Good, Not War, signed by over 50 employees and circulated on Twitter and an internal messaging board, it asks Microsoft President Brad Smith and CEO Satya Nadella to cancel the $480 million contract the company had signed with the military in November last year to provide augmented reality technology. The HoloLens, a self-contained holographic device, provides night vision, monitoring of vital signs and thermal sensing.
Under the terms of the agreement, Microsoft would supply the military over 100,000 HoloLens headsets to assist the military’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS). The program is designed to increase the military’s lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide and engage before the enemy.
This is what the employees in the HoloLens development see as a point of worry and concern. The letter stated that the application of the HoloLens within the IVAS program is designed to kill people. It also discloses that technology would turn real-world battleground into a video game, distancing soldiers from the overall grim stakes of war and the reality of bloodshed.
They also expressed concern over their say on the matter, stressing that the same technology could be used to help engineers and architects construct structures, tutor people on how to perform a surgery, play the piano, push the boundaries of gaming and even connect with the Mars Rover.
The letter also called for the termination of any and all weapons technology and development, tender a public policy to back the commitment. It also requested that the company set up an independent ethics review board to help determine a satisfiable application of Microsoft tech.
This is not the first time employees of tech companies have protested their company’s involvement with the military. Just last year, Google faced heavy internal backlash for their partnership with the Pentagon to develop drones.
It, however, remains unclear if Microsoft will cede to the demands of her employees.