One of Microsoft’s "fathers of Kinect" is now working on wearable projects at the company. Sources familiar with Microsoft’s device plans have revealed to The Verge that Alex Kipman, general manager of Xbox incubation projects, is heading up the company’s plans for wearable computers and customizing Windows to run on even smaller screens. Kipman has worked on a number of projects at Microsoft, including the creation of Windows Ultimate Edition and the Kinect sensor. ZDNet originally reported Kipman's new focus on wearables earlier this year.
We understand that Kipman’s team is focused on testing and customizing Windows on prototypes for wearable computers like glasses and smartwatches. Microsoft is rumored to be testing a smartwatch with a 1.5-inch display and Surface connector, alongside work on Google Glass-like eyewear. We’re told that Kipman and his team are expanding on concepts like Kinect Glasses (Project Fortaleza) to test whether Microsoft could bring them out of an incubation phase and into a real product. News of potential Kinect Glasses originally leaked alongside an early Xbox One planning document last year. The document was largely accurate, and Kinect Glasses were described at the time as a "breakthrough heads-up and hands-free device" with Wi-Fi or 4G connectivity and augmented reality support.
Microsoft's device chief has hinted at a wearable future
Microsoft’s head of devices, Julie Larson-Green, recently hinted at a wearable future for the company. "So sensors are going to become a big part of how you think about things," said Larson-Green at the UBS Global Technology Conference in November. "So some of the things we've been talking about — you see all these fitness devices that people wear on their wrists and they do some interesting things. What's the extension of that?" Larson-Green speculated that future devices could read your heart rate and suggest exercise patterns or sense your location and notify you when a bus is running late. "Just as the mouse was an invention, touch was an invention, there will be the next new way to interact," said Larson-Green. "And that's why we've been focusing on natural user interface for a while, working on that."
While Larson-Green is now in charge of Microsoft’s devices work, she previously led the Windows division temporarily ahead of a new OS group at the company. We understand that Microsoft is now focused on building a single version of Windows that can be tailored for each device instead of separate versions for desktop PC, tablets, phones, and the Xbox One. The core OS group at the company is now building a single version, as Larson-Green recently hinted at, and separate groups will tailor it for the relevant hardware. Joe Belfiore is working on the PC, phone, and tablet side, and Kipman’s group is said to be tailoring Windows for wearable computers. While Microsoft’s wearable work is clearly in the early stages, it might not be long until we see the fruits of the group's labor.