Microsoft Assures on HoloLens 2 and Mixed Reality
Microsoft this week gave assurances regarding its commitments toward continuing some of its mixed-reality products, including Microsoft Mesh and the HoloLens 2 headset.
Update 2/10: Microsoft also reportedly cut its Industrial Metaverse Core team associated with Project Bonsai. See this story.
Microsoft's mixed-reality product commitments were described by Robin Seiler, corporate vice president and chief operating officer of Microsoft's Windows and Devices organization, and manager of the company's mixed-reality operations. Seiler offered the following assurances:
- HoloLens 2 is still getting produced by Microsoft, and it receives monthly software updates.
- The Dynamics 365 Guides and Remote Assist apps continue to get updates to meet customer needs.
- Microsoft Mesh is getting investments, including for "more immersive collaboration experiences in the metaverse."
- The Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) program with the U.S. Army, which uses HoloLens technology, is undergoing product design changes under contract.
Microsoft did put an end to AltspaceVR, a meeting solution using avatars, Seiler confirmed. Microsoft's learnings from AltspaceVR are getting put into Microsoft Mesh, Microsoft's metaverse product that also lets people meet in virtual spaces via avatars.
Microsoft characterized its Mixed Reality Toolkit (MRTK) as now being a separate open source project that it'll support for integration with HoloLens 2. Microsoft is planning to make "continued open-source contributions to MRTK when needed" to that end.
Microsoft's assurances about its Mesh and HoloLens products are arriving after an announced 10,000 cut in its personnel and other changes potentially affecting its metaverse work. For instance, its AltspaceVR product was announced as shutting down and its MRTK developer team was said to have been "eliminated." The company's U.S. Army IVAS contract using HoloLens technology has traversed a bumpy road over the years, and Congress recently elected to cut back on some of its funding.
The metaverse theme has typically been highlighted by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella during major Microsoft events, although it wasn't top-of-list during last year's Build event keynote talk. Microsoft's conception is that there will be business and consumer metaverse implementations, but most of Microsoft's announcements so far have described possible business implementations.
So far, Microsoft's efforts have fallen into its "industrial metaverse" category, where HoloLens 2 is used with the Dynamics 365 Guides and Remote Assist apps. It's being used for things like shop-floor training efforts, with Microsoft showcasing Toyota's use of those tools. Microsoft has been improving these add-on apps, and announced back in December that the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Guides and Remote Assist add-on apps were getting combined to offer a "single seamless experience" for users.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.