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Microsoft defends military contract, will continue to develop HoloLens ‘weapon’

Microsoft will not terminate its giant contract with the U.S. Army, which aims to bring the HoloLens augmented reality headsets to soldiers on the battlefield.

Despite protests from more than 100 Microsoft employees over the weekend, the company will proceed with work on the $480 million contract to create an Integrated Visual Augmented System, signed last November.

In a letter to CEO Satya Nadella and company president Brad Smith on Friday, the Microsoft Workers 4 Good group said they “did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used.”

Related: Microsoft HoloLens 2

However, in comments to CNN on Monday, Nadella says Microsoft had made a “principled decision” when signing up to work with the Pentagon and has not shifted from that stance, despite objections from the rank and file employees.

In words sure to stoke the fire, Nadella said: “We made a principled decision that we’re not going to withhold technology from institutions that we have elected in democracies to protect the freedoms we enjoy. We were very transparent about that decision and we’ll continue to have that dialogue [with employees].” (via TechCrunch)

Effectively, he’s saying the company is working with the good guys, so that makes the potential weaponising of HoloLens headsets A-OK.

Microsoft’s contract involves a pilot program that will bring use the mixed reality headsets, as well as specially-developed software that can be used for training and combat purposes.

The company outlined its support for the lucrative military project in October, pledging: “we believe in the strong defense of the United States and we want the people who defend it to have access to the nation’s best technology, including from Microsoft.”

The continued protests have even overshadowed the announcement of a second-generation headset, which was revealed at MWC 2019 on Sunday night.

Do you think Microsoft’s decision is principled? Or are employees write to protest against the use of the tech they developed in a war setting? Let us know @TrustedReviews on Twitter.