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By Namerah S
Microsoft bags yet another HoloLens contract with U.S. military
by Namerah Saud Fatmi
A few years back in November 2018, Microsoft was awarded a $480 million contract for its augmented reality headset, the HoloLens, by the U.S. military. Though it was a big win for the company, it wasn't exactly met with applause. The deal was followed by protests from employees worried about their work contributing to the death of others as the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) was designed to help soldiers practice.
At the time, CEO Satya Nadella dealt with the situation rather bluntly, reaffirming that Microsoft would continue to engage with the U.S. military despite employee disapproval. Following suit, today one of the world's largest tech giants did just that, winning another contract with the United States Army for the augmented reality headset.
Today's deal between the U.S. Army and Microsoft is worth a whopping $21.9 billion, more than forty times the value of the first IVAS contract. The multi-billion dollar agreement will be spread out over the span of ten years, as reported by CNBC. As per the contract, 120,000 customized AR headsets are to be built in the given period.
Employees of the Redmond-based corporation have yet to respond. Whether the Microsoft workers will stay quiet about yet another military deal this time remains unknown.
Japan agrees to provide important Lunar Gateway components
by Paul Hill
NASA and the Government of Japan have come to an agreement over the Lunar Gateway that will see the east Asian nation provide capabilities for the Gateway’s International Habitation module (I-Hab). The I-Hab is a key component of the modular space station as it includes life support capabilities and additional space where astronauts can live and work during Artemis missions.
According to the American space agency, JAXA’s planned contributions include I-Hab’s environmental control and life support system, batteries, thermal control and imagery components. Once developed, these parts will be integrated into the I-Hab module by the European Space Agency (ESA) which shows just how much of an international effort this new space station is.
Under a previous agreement between JAXA and Northrop Grumman, Japan will supply the batteries that’ll be used in Gateway’s Habitation and Logistics Output (HALO) – the area of the station where astronauts will go first once arriving at Gateway. Japan has also decided to take a look at its HTV-X cargo resupply craft to see whether it can adapt it for use in Gateway logistics resupply missions.
Commenting on today’s partnership, Gateway program manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center Dan Hartman said:
The Lunar Gateway, which is set to orbit the Moon, will begin launching in January 2024. Initially, the Power and Propulsion Element and the HALO modules will be launched and eventually will be joined many other modules. The I-Hab, which Japan is developing components for under today’s agreement is set for launch in 2026.
By Steven P.
What a nice gesture, well done to office Lima
By Ather Fawaz
Nuro approved to become the first driverless delivery service in California
by Ather Fawaz
Image via Nuro Nuro, the autonomous delivery startup, has obtained the first-ever approval from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to launch driverless services in the state. The milestone achievement makes Nuro the first company to receive approval of this kind, ahead of companies like GM and Amazon who have only received testing approvals for their bids in the same technology thus far.
Following the approval, Nuro can now start autonomous routine deliveries of food, beverages, medicine, and other products in California. The firm states that it will soon begin operating commercially on California roads in two counties—Santa Clara and San Mateo— near its headquarters in the Bay Area with an established partner. The company stated in a blog post:
Service will start off with a fleet of Toyota Prius vehicles in fully autonomous mode before the company eventually deploys its custom-built electric R2 vehicles. Nuro accentuated that safety is the primary concern for its vehicles, stating that the "R2 was purposefully engineered for safety, with a design that prioritizes what’s outside — the people with whom we share the roads — over what’s inside." As such, deliveries can only occur during good weather conditions, and the vehicles will be limited to a maximum of 25mph (~40km/h).
U.S. to fund the removal of Chinese tech in its networks
by Paul Hill
U.S. lawmakers are set to back a $1.9 billion fund to help remove Huawei and ZTE equipment from its mobile networks after they were deemed to be a threat by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) back in June. Earlier this year, the FCC published rules that require carriers to replace equipment from Huawei and ZTE.
The fund mentioned earlier is part of the wider COVID-19 relief bill which provides a total of $900 billion for different initiatives. $3.2 billion, for example, will be spent on emergency broadband for those on a low-income, a $50 monthly subsidy will help eligible households afford their internet connection and an internet-connected device.
According to leading Democrats, the low-income program is set to “help millions of students, families and unemployed workers afford the broadband they need during the pandemic”. With lockdowns caused by COVID-19, many people have been forced to use technology that they may not have utilized in the past in order to get on with their lives, and as a result people all over are finding it harder than ever to meet bill payments.
The funding expected to be approved in the U.S. will also help in several other ways, for example:
$285 will be spent to connect minority communities and establish an Office of Minority Broadband Initiatives at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). $250 million will go towards additional FCC support for telehealth. $1 billion is being allocated for a NTIA tribal broadband connectivity grant program. $300 million will fund a NTIA grant program to promote broadband expansion to underserved Americans in rural areas. $65 million will improve broadband maps which will help the agency better target government money for deploying broadband. The replacement of Huawei and ZTE equipment in U.S. networks comes after several years of the Trump administration asking countries in Europe and around the world to take similar actions.