Employees at Microsoft have demanded that the Company reject a $480 million contract with the US Army, which involves creating versions of its HoloLens augmented reality headsets to be used on the battlefield. The employees have expressed in writing that they did not approve of their knowledge and skills being used to develop weapons. They demanded a say in the way their products or work are used.
Over a 100 staff members signed the petition, which was addressed to Satya Nadella, CEO and Brad Pitt, president and chief legal officer, Microsoft.
The HoloLens is used to project digital images onto the physical world. Microsoft had developed the tools for professionals in the areas of architecture and engineering. While it has been used for training purposes in the army, it has never been used to develop weapons before. Now, the employees of the Company are seeking the introduction of a clear policy that states the acceptable ways in which its products may be used. The staff is also demanding that an ethics board be appointed to ensure that the policy is enforced.
The devices in question will be equipped with night vision, thermal sensing and provisions to detect concussions (additional features that are absent in the civilian version), which will add to its lethality in a war zone. The US Army is likely to order over a 100,000 headsets if the contract comes through.