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Burned by Kinect's Fizzle, Microsoft Is Taking Its Time With HoloLens

"If a consumer bought it today, they would have 12 things to do with it," said Alex Kipman, creator of the augmented reality glasses.

Ina Fried for Re/code

After seeing Kinect fail to connect with consumers despite strong early sales, Alex Kipman refuses to put a time frame on when Microsoft will start selling its augmented reality device, HoloLens, to consumers.

“When I feel the world is ready, then we will allow normal people to buy it,” Kipman said Thursday, speaking to reporters at the TED conference in Vancouver. “It could be as soon as we say ‘yes,’ and it could be as long as a ‘very long time.'”

The comments followed a stirring demo of the device’s potential in which Kipman turned the TED stage into a magical forest, the moon and Mars and conducted a holographic video chat with a NASA scientist a block away.

Microsoft is already selling a $3,000 HoloLens kit that developers and businesses can use to develop software. Kipman said the hardware is pretty consumer-ready.

“There’s nothing development kit-ish about it,” Kipman said.

But, he said, being ready means more than just having great hardware; it means having enough content to make it of lasting use.

“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.'”

Kipman said he is okay if Meta, Magic Leap or another company brings its tech to market first as long as when HoloLens hits the market, it is a product that consumers find very useful. Virtual and augmented reality have been hot topics at this year’s TED, with Meta debuting its Meta 2 augmented reality goggles and The Void debuting an interactive virtual reality experience.

“I’m in no rush,” said Kipman, who also declined to discuss what a consumer version might cost.

Kipman’s caution was learned the hard way. Microsoft received tons of early enthusiasm from the moment it unveiled his last effort — Project Natal, a depth-sensing camera that allowed Xbox owners to control games using only their bodies.

When it went on sale as Kinect, the camera quickly smashed sales records, landing in the Guinness Book of World Records. But consumer enthusiasm often waned after early use, either because of a lack of compelling games or because their own home wasn’t well suited to the controller, which worked best in a large open space.

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

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