Seven years after Microsoft unveiled the HoloLens AR headset during E3 2015, the future of the once-promising mixed reality headset is in doubt. A report claims that the next version of HoloLens has already been tabled, and it's unclear what Microsoft's next step will be.
The damning report from Business Insider (opens in new tab) paints a picture of disarray behind the scenes. According to the publication, the HoloLens 3 was scrapped back in the middle of last year, amid internal conflict among the HoloLens team.
One faction believed HoloLens should be geared toward consumers while the other believed it should be focused on enterprise and the military. Microsoft’s decision to partner with Samsung to build the headset had also caused division among the team.
The report also says that at least 25 Microsoft mixed reality employees left the company to join Facebook’s Meta in 2021. It’s possible the actual number may be more than 100 employees. According to one employee, the entire HoloLens initiative has been a “s**t show.”
Microsoft’s Frank Shaw, however, said HoloLens is a "critical part of [the company's] plans for emerging categories like mixed reality and the metaverse." Shaw also added: "We remain committed to HoloLens and future HoloLens development."
According to the Business Insider report, Ruben Caballero, the former Apple executive Microsoft hired to lead HoloLens’ engineering team in 2020, wanted to focus on consumers and the metaverse. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella also expressed his desire to make software for the metaverse – no matter who was making AR or VR hardware.
HoloLens was announced during a time when gaming VR was just starting to gain traction with devices like the Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR. The HoloLens E3 demo suggested Microsoft wanted the Augmented Reality (AR) headset to be more than just a gaming device.
Since then, HoloLens has been used by different tech companies and the United States military. However, Microsoft’s gaming plans for the device never spawned anything consumers could buy at a store. Now, it seems that the company won’t pursue AR/VR gaming, at least with the HoloLens.
Though HoloLens 3 may be dead, it’s doubtful Microsoft will completely abandon the AR/VR space, especially if it plans to push forward with whatever its plans are for the metaverse. Of course, that could be a problem on its own considering most people don’t even know what the heck the metaverse is all about. It’ll be interesting to see how (or if) Microsoft’s metaverse initiative will pan out or if people will even care about it. The metaverse could end up as dead as HoloLens, but that’s a story for another day.