Microsoft staff protest over Pentagon contract for augmented reality tech ‘designed to kill people’

Dozens of Microsoft staff have demanded the corporate pull out of a contract with the US navy to present augmented reality know-how, stating that they refuse to be complicit in “warfare and oppression.”

Microsoft employees launched a letter on Friday addressed to CEO Satya Nadella and President Brad Smith, through which they voiced opposition to the $479 million contract that goals to equip the US Army with up to 100,000 augmented reality headsets to be utilized in fight and for coaching. The Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) can be based mostly on a preexisting Microsoft know-how referred to as HoloLens. Released in March 2016, HoloLens is succesful of interposing digital pictures on no matter its wearer sees.

Signed by greater than 50 staff, the letter states that the IVAS contract marks the primary time that Microsoft has “crossed the line into weapons development.”

The software of HoloLens inside the IVAS system is designed to assist individuals kill,” they wrote. “It can be deployed on the battlefield, and works by turning warfare right into a simulated ‘video game,’ additional distancing troopers from the grim stakes of warfare and the reality of bloodshed.”

The staff stated that they “did not sign up to develop weapons,” and demanded extra management over “how our work is used.”

Microsoft acknowledged the petition – however insisted that the corporate has all the time been clear and open to suggestions from its employees.

“We always appreciate feedback from employees and provide many avenues for their voices to be heard,” a Microsoft spokesperson stated in a press release responding to the petition. “In truth, we heard from many staff all through the autumn. As we stated then, we’re dedicated to offering our know-how to the US Department of Defense, which incorporates the US Army beneath this contract.”

The assertion promised that Microsoft, as an “active corporate citizen,” would stay engaged in “the important ethical and public policy issues” surrounding synthetic intelligence and the navy.

Workers at America’s tech giants have more and more spoken out in opposition to their corporations’ enterprise dealings with intelligence companies and the Pentagon. Firms comparable to Apple, Google and Amazon have all confronted scrutiny from staff and the general public alike for their shady dealings with the US authorities.

In June, Google backed out of a contract with the Pentagon after going through inner dissent from offended employees. The tech large had been enlisted to present the US navy with a sophisticated AI that will enhance the focusing on capabilities of weaponized drones.

Microsoft, nevertheless, appears to be sticking to its Pentagon-friendly weapons. In December, the corporate’s president stated that Microsoft would “provide the US military with access to the best technology… all the technology we create. Full stop.” He added that he wished “Silicon Valley to know just how ethical and honorable a tradition the military has.”