Microsoft abruptly axes Metaverse project, triggers staff layoffs

Priya Walia

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Microsoft has discontinued its ambitious foray into the metaverse, opting to shelve its two key projects, Project Airsim and Project Bonsai. The move, expected to affect a substantial workforce, is a surprising turn for the tech giant known for its innovative endeavors.

Project Airsim, an AI-based aircraft simulation system aimed at industrial applications, was expected to be a key component of Microsoft’s vision for the “industrial metaverse.” The system, designed to teach individuals how to react to various flight scenarios, has been shut down. The move announced through a company statement to Business Insider, has resulted in the layoff of the entire team associated with the project,

According to a report from Business Insider, the company is set to pull the plug on Project Airsim on December 15, leaving its team members in the lurch. A Microsoft spokesperson told the outlet, “We are proud of the impact this incubation created for our customers, and we will continue to invest in Azure as the computing platform that powers the industrial metaverse and a wide range of AI projects within the company.”

Likewise, Project Bonsai, an AI development platform acquired through the purchase of AI startup Bonsai in 2018, was a crucial component of this broader initiative. However, the recent development has prompted the company to reassess its priorities, leading to the abrupt discontinuation of both projects.

Microsoft’s decision to terminate these projects can be attributed to a shift in focus, particularly toward its partnership with OpenAI. The company has strengthened its ties with OpenAI, extending their collaboration in early 2023. As a result, the software giant has discontinued its in-house metaverse initiatives and, unfortunately, had to lay off the 100-person team responsible for these projects.