Kinect designer wants to be more patient with HoloLens

Alex Kipman says consumer version of AR tech must wait until there's enough content to make it regularly useful

Microsoft's Alex Kipman is best known as the technological lead behind Kinect and HoloLens. While the former technological breakthrough was tremendously successful for Microsoft, Kipman doesn't want a repeat when the latter launches.

As reported by Re/code, Kipman acknowledged to reporters after his TED Conference appearance in Vancouver earlier this week that Kinect's success was short-lived. After an initial wave or two of games, developers and users alike seemed to lose interest in the motion-sensing camera. Microsoft initially bundled the second-generation Kinect sensor with the Xbox One, but turned it into an optional peripheral when consumers made it clear they wanted a less expensive core offering.

"It was not a pleasant experience," Kipman said of Kinect. "It was just not ready to go sell 10 million units in 60 days, which is what it did."

The last thing he wants is to see that history repeat itself with HoloLens. While he said the hardware is just about consumer-ready, he's "in no rush" to launch it on store shelves until there's enough software support to avoid the same fate as Kinect.

"If a consumer bought it today, they would have 12 things to do with it," Kipman said. "And they would say, 'Cool, I bought a $3,000 product that I can do 12 things with and now it is collecting dust.'"

As for when that software support will be sufficient and the HoloLens will go on sale, he couldn't say.

"When I feel the world is ready, then we will allow normal people to buy it," Kipman said. "It could be as soon as we say 'yes,' and it could be as long as 'a very long time.'"

Latest comments (4)

Mark Neri Property Management System Specialist, Courtesy Point Technologies, Inc.2 years ago
Wasn't it already apparent, considering the already available Xbox 360 titles which had Kinect functionality?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Mark Neri on 20th February 2016 3:09am

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Eyal Teler Programmer 2 years ago
"When the world is ready" is a bad way to look at it, and so is counting the number of titles. The Kinect failed not because it was terribly flawed, but because feedback wasn't sought out or used. I have a 360 with a Kinect and it's an amazing product for little kids when done right, for example with Double Fine Action Theater or Avengers: Battle for Earth. Then there are products like Disneyland Adventures and many other products which intersperse fun short gaming segments with terribly frustrating menu navigation and scene interaction that take most of the "gaming" time.

It seems to me like Microsoft at no point tried to understand what works and what doesn't. Menu navigation with Kinect doesn't work well. Microsoft should have forced all game devs to include controller based menu navigation. It should have done serious research about what works and what doesn't for motion control, hired game devs who are excited about it, ...

Perhaps it still wouldn't have made the Kinect very popular, but it's still a much better way to go than just create a big market by forcing the device and hoping that would make devs address it.

Same goes for the HoloLens. Microsoft should regularly let "normal people" test it, see what they like and don't like, and develop it in the direction that will make people like it. Just developing apps without feedback, like it seems was done with Kinect, will not result in a good consumer product.
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Matthew Martinez Consultant, BCG2 years ago
I was reminded of both the ups and downs of the Kinect this weekend when trying to find a game for my 4 year old to play. Most of the games were uninteresting and best and down right frustrating at worst. We ended up with Fruit Ninja 2, which is actually a perfect game for a 4 year old. The motion tracking worked great, it didn't require her to use a bunch of gestures and stand still in the exact same spot the entire time, and she absolutely loved the simple fast paced action. It made me think that there could have been a lot more done on the platform, if only Microsoft had done as Eyal said above. Test it out in the real world, find out what works and what doesn't and get developers excited and on board.
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I think, it makes perfect sense to have a mixture of sufficient high quality content as actual commercial proof of concept, and a relatively bug /latent free userbility to ensure a sufficiently memorable experience.

It doesnt have to be perfect, but it bloody better be memorable, allowing for iterative expansion of the Hololens concept.

i.e it needs to be just the right level of pleasant user experience, to keep em coming back for more within the upcoming market of AR
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