Microsoft reorgs the software side of its augmented/virtual reality operations

Microsoft is said to be creating a new Mixed Reality Studio and bringing together a number of its AR/VR/MR assets into a new organization.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft expands network to create AR and VR content with a new mixed reality studio

Microsoft is moving around a bunch of its augmented reality/mixed reality/virtual reality assets as one of its regular reorgs.

The details of this latest shuffle come courtesy of Brad Sams at Petri.com. Apparently, Microsoft has created a new Mixed Reality Studio that replaces its former Evoke Studio and other of its AR/VR/MR products, including Paint 3D, Mixed Reality Viewer and Remix3D. (Microsoft refers to these AR/VR/MR software assets as EDM, or "Every Day Magic," Sams says.)

Evoke Studio was formerly the domain of Corporate Vice President Chris Pratley and was part of VP Kudo Tsunoda's Windows App Studios unit. Pratley was in charge of a team of artists, data scientists, and others working on "new digital memory and video storytelling" for Windows 10 and other platforms that involved mixed reality, deep learning and AI. Evoke's first -- and maybe only publicly announced and shipped -- product was Story Remix in Windows 10.

As it's midway through Microsoft's fiscal 2018, it's a typical time for a mini-reorg. And it's not surprising that Microsoft might be interested in further jump starting its AR/VR/MR efforts, and possibly redirect them a bit toward the enterprise/digital workplace.

In what may or may not be a related move, Microsoft veteran Don Box recently was named Director of Engineering for Mixed Reality at the company. Box reports to Tech Fellow Alex Kipman and seems to be in charge of a blend of hardware and software products, including HoloLens, Windows Hello, and Windows Mixed Reality, according to his updated LinkedIn profile. Up until December 2017, Box was director of development for silicon, graphics and media for the Windows group.

"My goal is to use Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality technology to change the way humans and machines relate," Box said in his updated profile on LinkedIn.

While creating a separate new MR Studio -- whose mission seems to be to bring Mixed Reality to the workplace -- Microsoft is also reorganizing its NExT team. Microsoft created the NEXT team in 2016 as part of its 5,000-person AI + Research Group. NeXT, which stands for New Experiences and Technologies, handles data science, compliance, analytics and more AI-related functions.

Update: As one reader noted, there is also a Windows NeXT organization inside the Windows and Devices Group. This was the team charged with designing "experiences" for 3D, Windows Mixed Reality and Hololens and other emergent technologies. Megan Saunders was the General Manager of this team prior to this shake-up.

With Amazon.com recently selling Augmented Reality headsets from a number of its Microsoft's partners at a 50 percent discount just a couple of months after launch, a reset of the company's AR/VR/MR mission doesn't seem out of line. The new MR Studio wouldn't be amiss in very specifically targeting the digital workplace, rather than consumers, in my (sure to be unpopular) opinion.

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