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Microsoft confirms mixed reality layoffs, will keep selling HoloLens 2


Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks at a media briefing at the company’s campus in Redmond, Washington, on May 20, 2024.

Chona Kasinger | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Microsoft will lay off some employees who work on mixed reality, a spokesperson told CNBC on Monday. Although the cuts will affect the department that contributes to the HoloLens 2 augmented reality headset, Microsoft plans to continue selling the device.

The reduction comes a year after the software maker said it would make changes to its hardware lineup as part of a round of layoffs that hit 10,000 employees, including some in mixed reality. In the following months, Microsoft discontinued several keyboard models, causing frustration for some dedicated customers.

“Earlier today we announced a restructuring of the Microsoft’s Mixed Reality organization,” the spokesperson said in an email. “We remain fully committed to the Department of Defense’s IVAS program and will continue to deliver cutting edge technology to support our soldiers. In addition, we will continue to invest in W365 to reach the broader Mixed Reality hardware ecosystem. We will continue to sell HoloLens 2 while supporting existing HoloLens 2 customers and partners.”

Microsoft has not found great success with the HoloLens since its introduction in 2015, but the U.S. Defense Department gave a contract to the company for a modified HoloLens named the Integrated Visual Augmentation System. But soldiers who used the devices dealt with nausea and other conditions, Bloomberg reported. Tests suggested that an updated model looked promising.

But since then, Microsoft and its highly valued technology peers have poured billions into commercializing artificial intelligence. Microsoft has raced to deploy Nvidia graphics processing units so people can use a Copilot chatbot and Microsoft-backed OpenAI’s popular ChatGPT. Premium AI features in Microsoft 365 productivity applications can write memos, draft presentations and summarize meetings.

In December, Microsoft further reduced investment in augmented reality and virtual reality, which blocks out the surrounding world, when it deprecated Windows Mixed Reality, which included tools for running applications in head-mounted displays.

The spokesperson said Microsoft will keep selling the HoloLens 2 headset that was released in 2019 but did not indicate that a new model would be coming. Insider reported in 2022 that the company had canceled a third version.

Apple brought out its own augmented reality headset, the Vision Pro, in January.

Microsoft continues to support a feature called Mesh that lets people in headsets participate in three-dimensional Teams video calls with colleagues. At the Microsoft Ignite conference in Seattle in November, CEO Satya Nadella said the company was “reimagining the way employees come together and connect using any device, whether it’s their PC, HoloLens, or Meta Quest.”

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