Alex Kipman, top Microsoft boffin and inventor of the Kinect and HoloLens, has made a bold statement over the future of mobile phones – namely that there isn’t one.
Speaking to Bloomberg, Kipman said that "the phone is already dead," but that "people just haven’t realised". Unsurprisingly, he believes that a mixed reality device – such as HoloLens – will firmly replace the smartphone, but didn’t say just how or when the smartphone will be killed off.
Kipman is one of the chief inventors of the tech that makes the HoloLens work, secretly developing it underneath Microsoft’s visitor centre in Redmond Washington. These things don’t just happen in spy films after all. Before his covert HoloLens inventions, Kipman also invented the sensor that goes into the Kinect camera for the Xbox 360. While the Kinect and its subsequent iteration that came with the Xbox One became a bit of a joke in the gaming community, it is still widely used ny researchers and developers as a 3D sensing motion camera.
The statement from Kipman comes after Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella hinted that the company’s next phones will take on a different form in an interview with Marketplace. “So when you say ‘when will we make more phones’ I’m sure we’ll make more phones. But they may not look like phones that are there today.”
With all of that said though it is worth noting that Microsoft’s mixed reality headset is still some way from seeing an actual consumer launch, much less a version that could potentially replace the functionality of a smartphone. The HoloLens itself has been around for a couple of years, but there isn’t a consumer model available. Anyone willing to fork out $3,000 can buy a developer model directly from Microsoft, but we aren’t expecting to see a model ready for widespread sale until 2019 thanks to a lack of competition in the market. It’s rumoured that Magic Leap and Apple are working on AR headsets, but there’s no sign as to when they will be released.
While it might be some time before the consumer AR dream might become a reality, it is clear that Microsoft is very focused in not only making it a success, but also using it to make one of the defining form factors of the 21st century obselete.