News

Microsoft Lays Off Core Metaverse Team

According to a Thursday report by The Information (paywalled), those working  on Microsoft's Industrial Metavers Core team has been cut.   

This industrial metaverse team is called "Project Bonsai" internally at Microsoft, according to the report. It was a group that Microsoft had formed about four months ago.

Microsoft does have effort called Project Bonsai, which is a machine teaching platform for building autonomous AI (called "brains" by Microsoft). These trained brains get used to improve industrial systems. The efforts of Project Bonsai weren't just aimed at factory-floor processing improvements, but also extended to things like chemical processes in machines, making corrections to avoid runaway overheating problems, for instance. That scenario was described in Microsoft's Jan. 2022 "What's New" video for Project Bonsai, which maybe was the last published news from the team.

Microsoft cut its Industrial Metaverse Core team because it wants to prioritize other projects generating short-term revenue vs. projects that will require more time, according to a Friday article by CoinDesk, which attributed the explanation to an unnamed person with "direct knowledge of the matter." Microsoft, though, indicated that it is still committed to industrial metaverse work. Here's Microsoft's statement to that effect, given to CoinDesk:

Microsoft remains committed to the industrial metaverse. We are applying our focus to the areas of the industrial metaverse that matter most to our customers and they will see no change in how they are supported. We look forward to sharing additional information in the future.

Most of Microsoft's publicly reported progress on the metaverse – a concept that envisions virtual environments populated by avatars – so far has been centered on its industrial metaverse work. For example, Microsoft has frequently touted Toyota's use of the HoloLens 2 mixed-reality headset and solutions like Microsoft's Dynamics 365 Guides and Remote Assist apps to better communicate engineering nuances.

Last week, Robin Seiler, who oversees Microsoft's mixed-reality operations, gave assurances that Microsoft was still committed to HoloLens 2 and mixed reality efforts. However, the assurances came shortly after Microsoft had ended its AltspaceVR meeting solution for avatars, along with eliminating its entire team that was building its Mixed Reality Toolkit, which is now a separate open source project.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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