Alex Kipman, Microsoft HoloLens Inventor: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Alex Kipman Microsoft

Getty Alex Kipman, Inventor of the HoloLens, talks virtual reality at Microsoft's Build conference in Seattle, Washington in 2017.

Alex Kipman is the inventor of the Microsoft HoloLens and the Microsoft Kinect. The 38-year-old inventor is presenting at the Microsoft Mixed Reality event on October 3, as he did in 2015 when the HoloLens was first introduced.

Kipman has ideas about the future of technology, communication and education that can only be described as innovative. He has expressed interest in the use of augmented or virtual reality for more than just entertainment, saying that it can be used for education, exploration and science as well. Microsoft uses the HoloLens in their partnership with Ford and often markets the product for use in business.

“The phone is already dead,” Kipman said in an interview with Bloomberg. “People just haven’t realized.”

Here’s what you need to know about Kipman:

1. He Gave a Ted Talk About Mixed Reality

The Ted talk delivered by Kipman in 2016 included multiple demos illustrating his vision of the future of augmented reality. Near the end of the video, Kipman talks to a hologram of NASAs Jeffrey Norris standing on a hologram of Mars, demonstrating one way that he believes the technology could be applied in real life.

On how this technology could be used in the future, Kipman said

Less than half a century ago, two courageous men landed on the moon using computers that were less powerful than the phones in your pockets. Six hundred million humans watched them on grainy, black-and-white televisions. And the world? The world was mesmerized. Now imagine how our children and their children will experience the continued exploration of space with technology that understands this world.

After the Ted talk, there was a question-and-answer session that shed some light on how the technology in the HoloLens works. Normally, HoloLens maps environment in real-time, Microsoft pre-mapped the stage so it could maintain the demo even when the Wi-Fi got bogged down. Also, Kipman explained that the points of light in a given area are identical, so what viewers of the Ted talk see is fundamentally the same as what Kipman sees in the HoloLens.

2. He Also Invented the Kinect

Kipman invented Microsoft’s motion-sensing system that came out with the Xbox 360. The Kinect did away with the controller and instead tracked body movements in order to play a game.

Kipman worked long hours on Kinect along with other Microsoft developers. They had a deadline of August 18, 2018, and they wanted to meet it. When they didn’t have everything they needed for their meeting, Kipman told Wired that they brought in a pair of sensors that were Scotch-taped together and had the executives try the technology for themselves.

“We didn’t tell the execs anything about the technology,” he said. “We didn’t say anhything about what had been done behind it.”

Kipman and the rest of the team got the funding to continue their project, but they still had a lot of work ahead of them. It took 6 more months to figure out the tracking and plan some games that could be played on the device. The Kinect started out with games like bowling and yoga, but soon developed into other types of games like Dance Central. The software responds to voice commands and recognize who’s playing in the room.

3. He Was Born in Brazil

Alex Kipman

Kipman discusses the HoloLens during the 2016 Microsoft Build conference.

Kipman grew up in Natal, Brazil, the largest city of the state Rio Grande do Norte, in northeastern Brazil. The city has a population of 862,000.

Kipman points out that his fascination with technology started when he was a child in Brazil. His parents bought him three Atari 2600s, and he broke the first two because he wanted to figure out how they worked.

“I knew then that is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Kipman told Microsoft. “If I could be lucky enough to get someone to pay me that would be a bonus, but I was stuck with this art form for as long as I lived.”

Kipman attended school at the Rochester Institue of Technology, where he flew between New York City, Boston and Rochester daily, sleeping only on flights in between his three jobs in the three cities. In New York City, he worked on the merger between Chase Bank and J.P. Morgans’ banking systems, and in Boston he would work at RSA security doing research until 8 or 9 at night when he would catch a flight back to Rochester to work on his senior project. After that incredibly busy senior year, Kipman accepted his first job at Microsoft.

4. He Has Been With Microsoft for Over 15 Years

Kipman bounced from division to division at Microsoft before finally landing where he is today. When Kipman started at the company, he was working on MSBuild, which is still used by Microsoft today. When he paired up with Peter Loforte, then the general manager of Enginerering Excellence, they created Windows Vista Ultimate.

Afterward, Kipman began work on “Project Natal,” which would eventually become the Microsoft Kinect. He saw that as the company’s first step toward “making technology disappear.” When he started work on the Kinect, Kipman was general manager of incubation at Microsoft’s Entertainment Business. Kipman is now the Technical Fellow of the Operating Group at Microsoft. He works on virtual, mixed and augmented reality.

5. He Was Named a Top Nerd of the Year

Barely past the age of 30, Kipman earned a space in TIME’s “Top 25 Nerds of the Year” in 2010.

In the post on Microsoft’s blog, Kipman is regarded as being generous with his time and always being willing to tell the story of how the Kinect came to be.

Kipman was recognized as one of the “Nerds” alongside tech genius Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.

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