After laying off 10,000 staff last month, Microsoft’s mixed reality efforts were heavily impacted, with both the company’s MRTK and HoloLens teams affected by the layoffs. In fact, reports stated that Microsoft was getting rid of its entire Mixed Reality Toolkit (MRTK) team, which started to raise concerns within the both enterprise users and the wider XR community as to the future of HoloLens itself.
However, in a recent company blog post, Microsoft has shared that it remains committed to its HoloLens 2 mixed reality (MR) device as well as the company’s broader mixed reality program, for now at least.
Microsoft is continuing to produce and support HoloLens 2, which includes monthly software updates to ensure its enterprise customers can leverage HoloLens 2 and the supporting platform to complete critical work. The company stated that it is also continuing to update Dynamics 365 Guides and Remote Assist to address the needs of those customers.
Both HoloLens and Dynamics 365 are key components of industrial metaverse deployments, and assist many customers in connecting the benefits of digital transformation to frontline workers in field service, factory operations, and many other use cases.
Commenting specifically on the case of its Mixed Reality Toolkit, Microsoft stated: “We are proud of how this project has accelerated cross-platform mixed reality app development for so many developers over the years. From its inception, we created the MRTK to be cross-platform and open-source to benefit the entire ecosystem and not just HoloLens. We are excited that the open-source approach will enable it to live on, and we hope to see increased contributions from others across the Mixed Reality space.”
It seems that for now, Microsoft is somewhat committed to maintaining compatibility between MRTK and HoloLens 2, however this is most likely to keep any enterprise users of the HoloLens 2 who may be asking questions as to the future of the device happy. However, it appears as though the company will no longer have any formal team dedicated to maintaining MRTK, and will instead rely on “continued open-source contributions to MRTK when needed.”
Instead, the company will be putting more of its focus into Microsoft Mesh in order to deliver any mixed reality and metaverse tools and solutions. Microsoft noted that it is currently in preview with enterprise early adopters who are providing feedback as the company iterates on experiences and offerings with Microsoft Mesh.
Finally, Microsoft commented on its work supporting the US Army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) program, wherein the company was recently contracted to revise the IVAS product design to address soldier feedback. Microsoft stated that its work on IVAS was “A testament to our partnership with the government, commitment to the program, and ability to rapidly iterate on product designs to achieve results.”
While HoloLens and IVAS are very different devices according to Microsoft, they both build on Microsoft’s history of developing mixed reality technologies. As a result, it seems that for the time being, Microsoft remains committed to its investment in Mixed Reality, albeit in a somewhat stripped back manner. However, the company still considers the mixed reality market as a “critical space.”
For more information on Microsoft and its mixed reality solutions, please visit the company’s website.
Image credit: Microsoft