Microsoft Employees Object to Holographic Headset for War Use
Last week, 50 employees protested in a letter against Microsoft’s intention to share the Hololens AR headset with the military to teach soldiers how to kill better.
The letter addressed to Satya Nadella CEO of Microsoft said the devices would be “turning warfare into a simulated ‘video game.’” They asked Microsoft, which won the $480 million contract in November, to “cease developing any and all weapons technologies” for the government.
The Washington Post printed the letter, released anonymously, in an article:
“As employees and shareholders we do not want to become war profiteers,” the letter concluded. “To that end, we believe that Microsoft must stop in its activities to empower the U.S. Army’s ability to cause harm and violence.”
Microsoft responded, “We always appreciate feedback from employees and have many avenues for employee voices to be heard.” The U.S. Army did not comment.
The employee uprising at Microsoft is the latest sign of opposition among tech employees, similar to ones at Amazon and Google, where workers rejected contracts with the U.S. military and law enforcement agencies. Google decided not to renew one of its contracts with the Pentagon — the Maven technology to develop image-recognition tools for drones—because employees wanted the company out of the “business of war.”
The U.S military said it will order 100,000 of the Hololens Headsets in the future. They give soldiers several enhanced tools in a heads up display, such as night vision, heat detection and the ability to view video and navigation; automatically recognizing and targeting “relevant threats”; and allowing them to see where their weapons were aiming without using a laser that could give their location away. The headsets may also be used for fighting training with specific enemies.
Just last year workers succeeded with their petition to cancel a cloud computing and artificial-intelligence contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Microsoft said it would allow employees to change positions within the company if the products they are asked to work on conflicts with their ethics.
But Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, said the company will not cease working with the Defense Department, a business relationship that he said dates back decades.
The holographic system is being sold to developers but is not available to the public yet. The HoloLens 2 headset will cost $3500 —$1500 less than the commercial price of the first HoloLens device Microsoft released more than four years ago. Microsoft is also offering a subscription option for $125 per month.
read more at washingtonpost.com
An overview of the headset’s features can be found at CNBC.com