Microsoft, known for its innovative forays into AI and the metaverse, made waves earlier this week when it sent an internal message to a select group of team members announcing the termination of its Airsim project.
Microsoft’s industrial metaverse vision was a fusion of metaverse and AI, a visionary initiative set to change the landscape of industrial collaboration. However, with the abrupt discontinuation of the Airsim project, the team working on it was informed of their termination, though the exact number of affected employees remains undisclosed.
A Microsoft spokesperson, as quoted in the report, expressed pride in the impact created by the Airsim project for their customers. The company reassured its commitment to investing in Azure as the computing platform powering the industrial metaverse, along with a diverse range of AI projects.
The Airsim project’s termination wasn’t the only shift in Microsoft’s strategy. The company also withdrew support for the Bonsai project, an endeavor aimed at developing AI-driven autonomous systems for industrial applications. Both Airsim and Bonsai were pivotal components of Microsoft’s industrial metaverse initiative. While Airsim originated in 2017, Bonsai entered the Microsoft fold through an acquisition in 2018.
These initiatives were initially seen as crucial elements in Microsoft’s endeavor to enable industrial app developers to leverage Microsoft’s Azure cloud services, competing with Amazon Web Services. The oversight for these projects fell under Microsoft’s Chief Technology Officer, Kevin Scott, who also played a key role in Microsoft’s partnership with OpenAI.
However, with the evolving landscape of AI and the partnership with OpenAI, Scott reportedly shifted his focus from industrial metaverse initiatives to a more AI-centric approach. This is not the first instance of Microsoft discontinuing projects related to the development of the industrial metaverse. In February, the company made a similar decision, leading to the layoffs of a hundred team members. Microsoft stated that it aimed to prioritize shorter-term projects with quicker revenue-generating potential.
This strategic shift raises questions about Microsoft’s roadmap for the industrial metaverse and the future of AI-driven ventures. As the metaverse continues to evolve, the tech giant’s approach will be closely watched for its impact on the broader tech and AI landscape.