Baidu’s Head of Metaverse Operations Leaves as Company Zooms In On AI

A source close to the company on Friday told the South China Morning Post that Ma Jie’s name could not be found in Baidu’s internal computer system.
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Quick take:

  • Baidu’s metaverse chief has quit the company.
  • Ma Jie’s name has disappeared from the Chinese internet giant’s internal computer database.
  • This comes after Baidu shifted its focus to generative AI amid the ChatGPT buzz.

Baidu’s head of metaverse Ma Jie has reportedly quit the company according to a source close to the Chinese internet giant. South China Morning Post reported on Friday that the source told them Ma’s name could not be found in the company’s internal computer database following a search.

This report comes following Baidu’s decision to shift focus to generative AI, the technology that has recently gained popularity among tech giants. Generative AI, enables companies to create automated conversational bots that can generate content based on user queries. 

Ma who joined Baidu in 2015 was also quoted by the Chinese media The Paper on Friday as saying he “had already left Baidu”. But the internet giant could not confirm or deny the reports.

According to another source who first reported the personnel change, Baidu has sidelined the metaverse business to focus on AI. Generative AI has emerged as the new shiny toy on the block for technology giants, seemingly taking over from the metaverse.

Facebook, which rebranded to Meta in October 2021 has been accused of taking the same direction. However, co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has refuted those claims affirming his company’s budding metaverse community that Meta was fully committed to the course.

But Baidu and Meta are not the only notable tech giants pulling back from the metaverse. In February 2023, Tencent, Baidu’s local rival dissolved its extended reality (XR) team of 100 staff members just months after setting it up. The move was interpreted as a step back from the metaverse race. The company attributed its decision to a decline in profits following its 2022 results.

Baidu seems to be sidelining its metaverse businesses for the same reasons according to sources in China who spoke to local media outlets. 

In the US Microsoft laid off its industrial metaverse staff, instead choosing to focus on products that are likely to yield returns in the short term.

In our recent feature about the metaverse, we asked industry experts what the future holds for the metaverse amid the recent developments. Clearly, the big tech seems all of a sudden unconvinced about the future of the 3D virtual space compared to a few months ago.

What we learned is that the consensus opinion is the metaverse is here to stay, but perhaps not the time for the big tech that has to show progress to shareholders every three months.

Ma understood the journey was long before the metaverse could establish a strong foothold in the technology space. Commenting on the metaverse just about the time when Facebook rebranded to Meta, Ma said “The metaverse is still in a very early stage of development”, adding that it required patience for the online community to build and improve the industry together.

Baidu’s XiRang metaverse “Land of Hope” appears to have lasted just 18 months based on today’s reports. Tencent’s XR division and Microsoft’s industrial metaverse unit both lasted four months.

But native Metaverse and web3 companies like The Sandbox, Windfall, Somnium Space and Decentraland stay the course despite the prolonged bear market.


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