‘Pokémon GO’ and modern warfare

The same kind of technology used to capture Pokémon at the park will be used on the battlefield

Tyee Arey, Staffer

Microsoft development staff has begun protesting the company’s multi-million dollar military contract. According to the contract, Microsoft’s new augmented reality device termed the “HoloLens,” would be applied onto the battlefield. This headset can increase lethality and seems to be the first step bringing about the science fiction war technology depicted in mass media.

Like the helmet displays from Iron Man, Halo, and video game HUD’s (Heads Up Display), the Hololens could be the beginning of a new age of military technology, opening the doors to sci-fi technology that is straight out of fantasy. But, this might not be a good thing, and Microsoft employees have protested the militarization of products they thought were for civilian use.

“We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used,” employees said in an anonymous letter. “We are alarmed that Microsoft is working to provide weapons technology to the U.S. Military, helping one country’s government ‘increase lethality’ using tools we built.”

The letter received over a hundred signatures after being passed around the staff on Feb. 22, addressed the Microsoft CEO and Chief Legal Officer. Microsoft pushed back, stating that the military needs increased the ability to respond to violent situations, and decided to continue development for military purposes. Smith also stated that employees unwilling to work for the project could transfer to work on others.

According to a government description of the augmented reality headset, it will “increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide and engage before the enemy,” and will incorporate features that won’t be available publicly. Discussion and negotiation of infrared and night vision may be present in the final product. The contract would eventually lead to government purchasing over 100,000 headsets.

Popular media has not been very kind to the concept of militarized augmented reality headsets. Netflix’s stunningly creative show Black Mirror, featuring disturbing dystopian sci-fi concepts, addressed the possibility of brainwashing with augmented reality. In the episode, “Men Against Fire”, soldiers wear helmets that cause them to recognize hiding civilians as aliens and proceed to massacre them. In the movie, The 5th Wave, humans without military implants are recognized as aliens disguised as humans by soldiers and are slaughtered by the millions.