The United States Space Force's Space Systems Command has entered an agreement with Microsoft for the development of an augmented reality simulation, aiming to enhance orbital training. Named ‘Immersive Intelligent Environment‘ (I3E), the system involves the use of Microsoft HoloLens headsets, allowing users to vividly interact with representations of orbital elements.
Microsoft's Azure and HoloLens Integration
Microsoft's Azure services play a crucial role in the initiative, providing the computational power necessary for the mixed reality environment. The I3E platform will operate in Microsoft Azure's commercial and governmental cloud infrastructures, accommodating both unclassified and classified mission data. Microsoft's approach integrates a broad partner ecosystem, thereby enriching the platform with diverse mission scenarios, visualizations, and multi-user interaction.
Training and Implementation
The SSC has already initiated training with the I3E system, with users experiencing a transformative way of understanding space through interactive visualization. Moreover, Microsoft's recent progress suggests an improvement in the HoloLens technology, reducing the instances of physical discomfort previously reported with earlier models.
The ongoing contract, valued at $19.8 million, is allotted for one year, with the possibility of extending to an additional three-year period contingent on the mixed reality framework's success. The I3E is a step forward from the Immersive Digital Facility prototype and will eventually be accessible through Azure Virtual Desktop to all Space Force personnel, also known as ‘Guardians'.
With a significant annual budget for space acquisitions, the SSC's adoption of cutting-edge mixed reality tools underscores the Space Force's commitment to leveraging innovative technologies for space operations.
Ongoing Growth Despite Windows Mixed Reality Demise
In December, Microsoft confirmed the end of development for its once-ambitious Windows Mixed Reality platform. The tech giant has put together a clear timeline for the end of support for both consumer and commercial editions of the virtual reality component. Official documents indicate that November 1, 2026, will mark the end of life for consumer editions such as Windows Home and Pro, while commercial editions will see an extended deadline until November 1, 2027.
However, the partnership with the Space Command and an ongoing contract between Microsoft and the US Army shows the company's commitment to mixed reality solutions remains. It does seem those commitments are focusing on enterprise more than any commercial consumer plans.