Hololens 3 halted? High-ranking Microsoft engineer leaves for Meta
Rune Jensen, another long-time and high-ranking Hololens engineer, is moving from Microsoft to the XR competition. This strengthens rumors that Microsoft might have put the Hololens 3 project on hold.
Rumors have been swirling since early February that Microsoft is shutting down the Hololens project, or at least repositioning it. Plans for Hololens 3 are reportedly on hold, and a planned collaboration with Samsung is not sitting well with the Microsoft team.
The military Hololens is also causing Microsoft technical problems. The main problem is the AR glasses' inadequate display technology, which is why Samsung is allegedly also pushing for a new form factor that is more reminiscent of a VR headset but with AR passthrough.
Hololens hardware designer moves to Meta
As a result of the hardware issues, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella wants to focus on mixed reality infrastructure software like Mesh and let other companies build the complicated, research-intensive AR hardware. This realignment would be unattractive to the Hololens hardware team.
Rune Jensen has worked for Microsoft for 18 years, most recently as "Director AR Hardware Engineering". Under his leadership, the Hololens hardware team has grown to up to 190 employees since July 2015.
According to his resume, Jensen was jointly responsible for the launch of Hololens 1 and 2, including accessories, as well as the military Hololens project. He and his team oversaw the entire development process - from initial concept design to manufacturing of the finished device. Prior to 2015, Jensen was involved in the architecture of Xbox consoles and Zune, among other projects.
Microsoft's XR professionals move to Meta and Google
Now Jensen is announcing his departure from Microsoft via Linkedin. He will take a new role at Meta, which is researching numerous prototypes for advanced AR and VR hardware at its Reality Labs.
Jensen is expected to follow circa 40 other former Microsoft XR professionals who previously joined Meta. Meta is said to offer salaries that are twice as high in some cases.
"I am delighted to have joined Meta. I’m inspired and very much aligned to Meta’s vision for the Metaverse, the team culture and passion for building great products," Jensen writes. He formally thanks his former employer and ex-team colleagues.
In the comments of his post, Bernard Kress congratulates Jensen on his new role. Kress had been the lead optics architect for Hololens and a Microsoft colleague of Jensen's since 2015. Kress moved to Google in November 2021 to work on new AR hardware.
Hololens development: According to Microsoft, everything is fine
Microsoft denied reports that emerged in early February that the Hololens project was coming to an end. It said the AR glasses continue to be an important part of its own mixed reality and metaverse strategy. "We remain committed to Hololens and the future development of Hololens," a Microsoft spokesperson said.
Hololens creator Alex Kipman tweeted that people shouldn't believe everything they read on the Internet. He did not explicitly comment on the reports or the status of Hololens 3. Internally, Kipman is said to have criticized the team after the leaks and received pressure from other departments to keep information more tightly under wraps.
For the XR industry, a possible hardware withdrawal by Microsoft would not be good news, since the company was considered a pioneer of a new AR computing paradigm with Hololens for a long time. Many companies have implemented prototype showcase projects with Hololens.
Competitors such as Meta, Apple and Google are also likely to be unhappy that Microsoft is no longer shaping the potential growth market - at least the hardware required for it. Meta and Apple are expected to launch new XR hardware this year.
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