What happened now? Alex Kipman, inventor of Kinect for Xbox and head of the Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality team, is leaving the company, according to an internal email. The development followed several reports that Kipman was accused of verbal abuse and inappropriate behavior with mixed reality department staff.
Internal email received GeekWire confirms that Microsoft HoloLens head Alex Kipman will soon part ways with Redmond. “Over the past few months, Alex Kipman and I have been discussing the path forward for the team,” Scott Guthrie, head of cloud and AI at Microsoft, said in an email, noting that it was a joint decision that now is the right time to Kipman. “leaving the company to pursue other opportunities.”
The email also announced a restructuring of the Microsoft Mixed Reality teams, with the equipment group to be placed in the Windows & Devices organization. (under Panos Panay), and the Mixed Reality Presence and Collaboration group will be part of the Microsoft Teams organization. Scott noted that Kipman would help with this transition for the next two months, “before he gets on with what lies ahead for him.”
Although it was not mentioned in the email, the outgoing HoloLens boss has been embroiled in controversy over the past few years, with numerous reports accusing him of inappropriate behavior that made it difficult for colleagues in the mixed reality department to work.
The most recent and caustic example comes from insider (Paywall), which cites the experiences of more than 25 employees accusing Kipman of misconduct, including inappropriate touching and behavior with female co-workers and diminishing their contributions. In one instance, he donned a VR headset connected to a mirrored display to watch a video of several young women engaging in an “overtly sexualized pillow fight” in front of employees in an office.
It may also have been one of the factors staff exodus from Microsoft’s mixed reality division, which is reportedly struggling to build a metaverse strategy. However, the silver lining in this cloud is that Microsoft $22.8 billion HoloLens deal According to Scott’s email, officially approved for participation in the “operating test phase (OT)” with the US Army.
While this milestone could potentially make HoloLens part of the military gear in the future, Microsoft’s restructuring of the mixed reality hardware group under Panos Panay means that Surface-branded glasses for consumers could also soon be possible.
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