Microsoft layoffs effectively kill HoloLens & mixed reality projects

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 21
Microsoft's layoff of 10,000 employees may pause the company's HoloLens and headset-based projects, with the entire teams working on mixed reality and virtual reality products decimated by the HR axe.

Microsoft HoloLens
Microsoft HoloLens


Microsoft, along with Google, Amazon, and other major tech companies, has been offloading considerable numbers of employees, in the face of a slowing economy. Workers brought aboard during the pandemic hiring sprees are being offloaded to save on costs, but in ways that could negatively affect ongoing projects.

The mass layoffs at Microsoft could be especially damaging to VR and AR efforts at Microsoft, as sources of Windows Central say that the entire team from AltSpaceVR, acquired by Microsoft in 2017, has been laid off in the last week, with the company closing fully in March.

With AltSpaceVR formerly leading Microsoft's own "metaverse" work, it now leaves Microsoft Mesh as the potential replacement.

Another entire team culled from the company is the one behind the "MS "Mixed Reality Tool Kit (MRTK) framework, a cross-platform system for producing spatial anchors within virtual space. MRTK had some success, with it made for Unity VR integrations as well as working with headsets produced by Meta, and Microsoft's own HoloLens.

The removal of the MRTK and AltSpace VR teams means there's little impetus for Microsoft to continue working on the HoloLens headset. While work has been scaled back over the last few years, Microsoft had been trying to secure a HoloLens contract with the U.S. military, but that too was pushed back on by Congress over alleged program issues.

Culling major teams behind the AR and VR efforts may indicate Microsoft isn't interested in leading the way with the "metaverse" concept, leaving the field open for Meta's established efforts and Apple's long-rumored vision.

Apple is anticipated to launch a headset in early 2023.

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 12

    Guess they'll wait for Apple's blueprint.
    StrangeDaysdanoxlkruppFileMakerFellerbyronl
  • Reply 2 of 12
    “They have no taste” ….
    StrangeDaysdanoxlkruppFileMakerFellerbyronl
  • Reply 3 of 12
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,556member
    Culling major teams behind the AR and VR efforts may indicate Microsoft isn't interested in leading the way with the "metaverse" concept,

    Maybe they have realized that the ‘metaverse’ idea is little more that oversold hype. Maybe Meta is driving a train to nowhere, and they’re the only ones who haven’t realized it. Even Apple seems to be pushing AR not a full VR product. 
    edited January 22 williamlondonlkruppravnorodomtdknoxgrandact73rezwits
  • Reply 4 of 12
    badmonkbadmonk Posts: 1,135member
    On the other hand, MSFT wastes so much money on overpriced acquisitions that it seems like bad judgment to cut back on R&D in this fashion to save a few bucks.

    Though I admire the trying-to-be-all-things-to-all-people ethos they do seem to have a blindspot for knowing where the technological puck is going.

    Which is why they overpay for established companies and shoot their own in the foot.  If I was one of these employees i would be hoping mad.
    williamlondondanoxravnorodomFileMakerFellerbyronl
  • Reply 5 of 12
    Microsoft is just following the [cough][cough] excellent example set by Google and to a lesser extent, Twitter.
    Google is a classic case of throw all sorts of ideas at a wall and see what sticks after a few years. If something has stuck but has not had a ROCI of say.... 1,000,000% then can it.
    All companies start projects that in the end, never see the light of day but it seems that the likes of Google and MS love to make those projects public well before they are really ready for 'prime time'.


    williamlondonStrangeDayslolliverdanoxravnorodombyronl
  • Reply 6 of 12
    danoxdanox Posts: 1,494member
    Microsoft is just following the [cough][cough] excellent example set by Google and to a lesser extent, Twitter.
    Google is a classic case of throw all sorts of ideas at a wall and see what sticks after a few years. If something has stuck but has not had a ROCI of say.... 1,000,000% then can it.
    All companies start projects that in the end, never see the light of day but it seems that the likes of Google and MS love to make those projects public well before they are really ready for 'prime time'.


    In relationship to Apple, Google, and Microsoft are just me too companies, that smokescreen approach works with Wall Street, and many of the so-called tech/financial analysts, both just dabble in hardware and physical retail stores, it’s all a show and it has basically worked, and is somewhat similar to the way, tesla’s playbook works ie they ain’t a tech company they’re just a car company at the end of the day but right now, a good portion of Wall Street is buying the con.

    Apple because of its vertical nature is by far and away the most versatile tech company but Google and Microsoft and feel keenly pressured to match up even though functionally they are far behind Apple on the hardware front. (Amazon has also felt the same way over the years.)

    Even though Apple executes on the hardware and software front extremely well when compared to their so-called peers back, they do have their two steps forward, one step back moments.
    edited January 22 DAalseth
  • Reply 7 of 12
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,872moderator
    hydrogen said:
    “They have no taste” ….
    Who'd have thought a $3500 giant nerd helmet wouldn't sell:



    Where's this guy now with his 'fully subsidized':



    Amateur companies are shipping AR glasses for under $400:



    All Apple needs to do is make an advanced version of that. More fashionable to wear, better controls, higher resolution displays and it offers a large 100"+ virtual 3D display for Mac, iPhone, iPad for movies, games, AR experiences (including fitness with virtual instructors).
    ravnorodomhydrogenFileMakerFellerbyronl
  • Reply 8 of 12
    The fact that apple also put their AR stuff on ice probably means there is no market for it yet, maybe due to component costs, inflation and lack of software.
  • Reply 9 of 12
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,633member
    Microsoft is just following the [cough][cough] excellent example set by Google and to a lesser extent, Twitter.
    Google is a classic case of throw all sorts of ideas at a wall and see what sticks after a few years. If something has stuck but has not had a ROCI of say.... 1,000,000% then can it.
    All companies start projects that in the end, never see the light of day but it seems that the likes of Google and MS love to make those projects public well before they are really ready for 'prime time'.


    You are absolutely correct, but Google has always been very open and intentional about how they float new concepts. They view “the wall” as being one path to success and a viable way to integrate a “crowd sourced exploration” philosophy into the exploratory phase of new product development. Is it good or bad? I’d say a bit of both, but probably in-line with other alternatives.

    I’ve worked closely with advanced development engineers who’ve spent decades on various advanced development, studies, prototypes, proof-of-concepts, etc., that never culminated in a sellable product. If you’re a person that wants to be able to point to things you’ve delivered to the field, to consumers, to your family, this type of effort can be demoralizing. Though, at times some pieces and fundamental concepts absolutely find their way into products. At other times these efforts resulted in what looked like viable products, with a few prototypes developed and deployed, but only to find out the problem could not be solved with the available technology and knowledge.

    One of my personally satisfying projects of this type ended up in the field only for enough time to gather enough knowledge that we could only solve part of the problem. That was 25 years ago. That effort has recently been rehydrated and with a high level of confidence that given current technologies, we will finally be able to solve the rest of the puzzle. I think Google is playing a similar “long game” in many areas. They are simply crowd sourcing some of their early exploration to a lot of willing crash test dummies. They’ve also extracted usable bits and pieces along the way.

    Google’s throwing it at the wall approach probably doesn’t lend itself to problems that require depth-first solutions, i.e., problems that require many interdependent layers to be explored and solved one layer at a time, but it probably works pretty well for width-first problems, i.e., getting more eyes looking and hands touching the different perspectives of the problem. 

    By the way. I did work on a project that considered using the HoloLens. My personal opinion is that it’s in the realm of other solution candidates that are close but not quite there, not yet anyway. Without knowing anything at all about Microsoft’s long game for VR/XR I still suspect they will keep pursuing opportunities in the problem domains that may ultimately benefit from the core aspects of the technology and what they’ve learned from current prototypes. Let’s not forget that the Newton DNA eventually found a very profitable host.
    edited January 23 muthuk_vanalingambyronl
  • Reply 10 of 12
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 6,500member
    Microsoft is just following the [cough][cough] excellent example set by Google and to a lesser extent, Twitter.
    Google is a classic case of throw all sorts of ideas at a wall and see what sticks after a few years. If something has stuck but has not had a ROCI of say.... 1,000,000% then can it.
    All companies start projects that in the end, never see the light of day but it seems that the likes of Google and MS love to make those projects public well before they are really ready for 'prime time'.


    While true in many ways it is also true that both Microsoft and Google know where their core business interests lie and protect them to the full. Sometimes illegally.

    More to the point though, both companies know the importance of 'first mover' status in strategic development. In that light it makes a lot of sense for them to throw out new products and services and see what sticks. Be first and your chances of dominating a market grow. 

    That is exactly how Microsoft and Google got where they are today. Search, Cloud, Services... 

    Amazon had books and general online retailing and took its development of cloud infrastructure to where demand was growing. 

    Not everything will gain traction and if you are willing to shelve projects with no mercy, then it is perfectly reasonable. 

    It is probably better than sitting back and holding onto ideas that may never see the light of day or putting massive effort into one or two and seeing them fail. As long as it does not impact core business. 

    Another option is to simply 'buy' the company making a first move or that looks like its going somewhere (YouTube for example). 

    The negative side is mainly how it affects consumers. Sometimes shelving a product means leaving users high and dry but again, Big Tech knows where it's bread and butter users are and tries to keep them satisfied. 

    I'm of the opinion that if your core business is profitable enough to allow you to throw things at the wall, it should also cover keeping users of your shelved products and services as protected as possible from the fallout. 







    FileMakerFellermuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 11 of 12
    Marvin said:
    hydrogen said:
    “They have no taste” ….
    Who'd have thought a $3500 giant nerd helmet wouldn't sell:
    "Giant nerd helmet" is now my official term for all VR headsets. If the military ends up buying into the space, I'd bet they'll love the term too!
    rezwitsmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 12 of 12
    byronlbyronl Posts: 255member
    I was thrilled when Microsoft announced the original HoloLens back in 2015. 

    Microsoft being Microsoft, they couldn't really turn their invention into a profitable product, at least yet.

    Maybe Apple can potentially hire some of the people that were laid off, since they're working on all that AR stuff?
Sign In or Register to comment.