Microsoft recently laid off 10,000 employees, which is equivalent to 5% of its total employees. For a large company like Microsoft, this is still a large number. According to Tom’s Hardware and MIXED, more detailed layoffs have been confirmed through the social networks of some laid-off employees. Among them, the teams of projects such as HoloLens, AltSpaceVR, and MRTK were all eliminated. These are all projects related to XR in Microsoft.
HoloLens 2 is Microsoft’s commercial AR device, mainly used in the industrial and medical fields. The device has been around for over 3 years and there is still no word on the next generation. At the same time, with the departure of Alex Kipman, the director some time ago, and the setbacks encountered by the military project IVAS derived from HoloLens, it seems to be expected that it will be cut.
Then there is AltSpaceVR, which is a VR social application, which can be understood as Microsoft’s Horizon. The product was on the brink of bankruptcy in 2017 when Microsoft bought it, but the app will shut down on March 10 following Microsoft’s layoffs. At the same time, Microsoft also has an XR project called Microsoft Mesh, which can be regarded as the successor of AltSpaceVR in a sense, but it is more commercial.
As for MRTK, this open-source project has a closer relationship with developers. It is a series of Unity components used to accelerate the development of Unity’s cross-platform MR applications. Support for multiple devices including Quest, HoloLens, and Windows MR. But also because of the open-source nature of the project, even if Microsoft no longer participates, community developers can continue to support the project.
In general, Microsoft’s layoffs indicate that they are retreating from the XR field. But on the other hand, Microsoft is emphasizing the importance of the metaverse, such as joining forces with Meta to introduce services such as Office and Xbox into Quest. We still don’t know how this giant company will go in the future of XR.