What’s up with Microsoft and the metaverse?

Microsoft dreamed up its AR headset over a decade ago. What’s happened since?

Given the name change and Zuck’s numerous uncanny valley demos, everyone knows Meta is all about the metaverse.

But what about Microsoft?

Well, recently, former HoloLens director Tim Osborne lamented Microsoft’s lost opportunity to “own” the market, per The Wall Street Journal.

What happened?

Microsoft’s HoloLens is an AR device dreamed up by its video games team while thinking about the future of gaming systems.

That initial idea was “Screen Zero,” an Xbox headset to replace other screens.

  • Microsoft built a prototype in 2010 that plugged into a computer, then debuted the wireless HoloLens in 2015.
  • At that year’s E3 gaming conference, Microsoft demoed how it could be used to play “Minecraft.”

Which was cool… except the headset was harder to build than expected and, when made available to consumers, cost $3k.

That might be why Microsoft sold ~300k of them, compared to Meta’s 17m Quest 2 VR headsets, which retail for ~$400.

Since then…

… Microsoft has transitioned to selling the HoloLens to enterprises, including NASA and Mercedes-Benz.

Its largest client is the US Army, which awarded Microsoft a $480m contract to develop AR training for soldiers — a rollout that has not been without tech issues.

Meanwhile:

  • Plans for a new HoloLens have been shelved due to budget cuts.
  • Inventor Alex Kipman departed amid allegations of inappropriate behavior.

Still, Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s VP of communications, says it’s still “committed” to the metaverse — and it isn’t like it’s been a digital stroll in the virtual park for anyone else.

Only 58% of Meta employees even get the metaverse themselves.

And AR headset competitor Magic Leap has returned with an enterprise-focused device that’s even less affordable… at ~$5k.

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