More than 100 Microsoft employees have signed a letter sent to CEO Satya Nadella and President Brad Smith criticizing the company’s plans to build HoloLens AR tech for the military, the organizing group said Friday. The development is part of a $480 million military contract that Microsoft won this past November.
The group’s letter demands that the company cancel their work on the contract and cease development of weapons technologies. “We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used,” the letter further states.
Microsoft has been focusing its augmented reality efforts on enterprise customers but had aggressively pursued the military contract, beating out other applicants including billions-backed startup Magic Leap. The contract is essentially a pilot program to begin outfitting the U.S. military with augmented reality visors and software tools to help with training and combat.
The letter protesting the nearly half-billion-dollar deal came just a couple days before Microsoft was expected to release a second-generation HoloLens at an event in Barcelona.
On behalf of workers at Microsoft, we’re releasing an open letter to Brad Smith and Satya Nadella, demanding for the cancelation of the IVAS contract with a call for stricter ethical guidelines.
If you’re a Microsoft employee you can sign at: https://t.co/958AhvIHO5 pic.twitter.com/uUZ5P4FJ7X
— Microsoft Workers 4 Good (@MsWorkers4) February 22, 2019
In October, Microsoft President Brad Smith published a blog expressing the company’s support for the military projects it was pursuing, saying “we believe in the strong defense of the United States and we want the people who defend it to have access to the nation’s best technology, including from Microsoft.” That letter was into the company’s substantially more impactful bid to win the $10 billion JEDI cloud infrastructure contract, but the sign of more pushback from a small group of employees showcases that not everyone at the company believes that Microsoft should be assisting the U.S. military.