Kinect Engineer defects to Google

Johnny Chung Lee, distinguished engineer and core contributor of XBOX Kinect, has left Microsoft. He announced today on his blog that he's taken a position on a "special projects" team at Google. He had the following to say in the posting found on his blog:

"After more than two and a half years working as a core contributor to the human tracking algorithms for Kinect, it was an extremely difficult decision and I leave behind many great colleagues in Redmond."

At Microsoft, Lee was a researcher in the Applied Sciences division. According to his bio on the Microsoft Research page, this group is tasked with exporing new "novel input and output devices that can improve interaction with computing technology." There, he provided advice on existing product lines, and developed prototypes of new form factors. In 2009 he joined the XBOX team to specifically work on bringing XBOX Kinect to market.

Lee joined Microsoft in 2008 after graduating from Carnegie Mellon University with a doctorate in human computer interaction. In addition he holds multiple patents some of which include a foldable interactive display and an automated way for calibrating projectors. On Kinect he had the following to say:

"The success of Kinect is a result of fantastic work by a lot of people. I'm also very happy that so many other people share my excitement about the technology, It was great to be a part of such a unique project. I look forward to seeing all the creative and unexpected ways that game developers will use the data from the camera to create fun experiences."

The departure of Dr. Lee from MSR follows a string of recent departures from the company, including the planned departure of Microsoft's Server and Tools Division head Bob Mugila this summer and the departure of Entertainment and Devices head Robbie Bach last May.

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41 Comments

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You're just out of Uni, you have a lot of ideas, you start by working on your big dream project on a company that will try a lot of different ideas even if they eventually fail (aka Microsoft). Then you come to the realization that "Yeah, but now I have a family and I just want some easy cash with moderate research" so you go to Google where you can code in a swimming pool. And finally you're tired and just want to relax so you jump to Facebook and start imagining the new homepage.

Drunken Beard said,
You're just out of Uni, you have a lot of ideas, you start by working on your big dream project on a company that will try a lot of different ideas even if they eventually fail (aka Microsoft). Then you come to the realization that "Yeah, but now I have a family and I just want some easy cash with moderate research" so you go to Google where you can code in a swimming pool. And finally you're tired and just want to relax so you jump to Facebook and start imagining the new homepage.
LOL, nice.

It's incredibly easy to reverse that comment. Facebook is new, unknown, unstable. Google is older, stabler, but still rapidly mutating. MS is old, stable and safe. I know I'd rather be working at MS if I wanted a stable job.

Kirkburn said,
It's incredibly easy to reverse that comment. Facebook is new, unknown, unstable. Google is older, stabler, but still rapidly mutating. MS is old, stable and safe. I know I'd rather be working at MS if I wanted a stable job.

Not sure if I agree... MS, and other people, have said several times that the future is cloud based. Google is pretty strong in that area.

It's getting hard to get customers pay for software (MS strong area: Windows and Office - their biggest incomes) when free software is just as good, if not better...

Tpiom said,

Not sure if I agree... MS, and other people, have said several times that the future is cloud based. Google is pretty strong in that area.

It's getting hard to get customers pay for software (MS strong area: Windows and Office - their biggest incomes) when free software is just as good, if not better...

I don't know if I'd say its getting harder when Windows is selling 7 copies per second and Office 1 copy per second.

Tpiom said,

Not sure if I agree... MS, and other people, have said several times that the future is cloud based. Google is pretty strong in that area.

It's getting hard to get customers pay for software (MS strong area: Windows and Office - their biggest incomes) when free software is just as good, if not better...

Except the free software obviously isn't better, and hasn't good support structure built around it etc...

Minimoose said,

Except the free software obviously isn't better, and hasn't good support structure built around it etc...


If it's free it won't be better. Serious stuff doesn't come out of empty pockets.

Dude's like this always have way more up their sleeves. It isn't like he built Kinect alone in his basement. It was the result of the effort from a ton of really smart engineers and developers. I'm excited to see what Dr. Lee comes up with next given the same if not larger supply of r&d cash he's just fallen into at the big G.

Whats with people being angry at him leaving? If i got payed more at another company i would gladly leave as well. its his life. There are plenty other good heads for ms to find.

So google cant invent their own version of Kinect so they steal one of the engineers. If they eventually release their own undoubtedly with MS tech disguised I hope MS sues them into the ground.

efjay said,
So google cant invent their own version of Kinect so they steal one of the engineers. If they eventually release their own undoubtedly with MS tech disguised I hope MS sues them into the ground.

yay, nobody should ever employ anyone with experience ever again! yay!

My guess is that Google came to the relization that no one wants to operate their TV with a full QWERTY keyboard and since Kinect looks like a reasonable solution to the problem, waived a ****ton of cash in front of Lee.

The only reason I can see him doing this is just for money, because Google definitely isn't much of a tech company. What a waste of talent. I guess he will build spyware for Google.

jd100 said,
The only reason I can see him doing this is just for money, because Google definitely isn't much of a tech company. What a waste of talent. I guess he will build spyware for Google.

Seriously?

ObiWanToby said,
Hm. Not good, he was an interesting researcher.

You're speaking as if he can't continue researching and innovating at Google.

Shiranui said,
How much would Google pay me to clean their toilets, I wonder?

Do you have a Masters in anything, I'm guessing their janitors are that smart

z0phi3l said,

Do you have a Masters in anything, I'm guessing their janitors are that smart

I have my master in masturbation!

Wow, Google is sweeping them up left and right. Seems like a lot of folks have abandoned Microsoft lately. Pretty soon, Ballmer will be the only one behind the wheel!

Educated Idiot said,
Wow, Google is sweeping them up left and right. Seems like a lot of folks have abandoned Microsoft lately. Pretty soon, Ballmer will be the only one behind the wheel!
Obviously. Microsoft hires no-one, and no-one leaves other companies.

Educated Idiot said,
Wow, Google is sweeping them up left and right. Seems like a lot of folks have abandoned Microsoft lately. Pretty soon, Ballmer will be the only one behind the wheel!

you seem to forget that the best google engineers left for facebook

Alansonit said,
They will have offered him a ridiculously higher wage packet. Google have been poaching for a while.

For how much they pay people, I wonder how their software can still be buggy as f*** compared to other companies.

Frylock86 said,

For how much they pay people, I wonder how their software can still be buggy as f*** compared to other companies.

I have had a very positive experience with Google software on the whole, the only piece I wasn't particularly fond of was Picasa.

Subject Delta said,

I have had a very positive experience with Google software on the whole, the only piece I wasn't particularly fond of was Picasa.

I have had the misfortune of experiencing in at full during my final year at University in the UK. The app suite (Docs/mail/calendar/talk/notes), is just a hinderer. It was more of an effort trying to collaborate using google docs than anything. They lure people in with their "Oh but it's free" line then shaft people seeking support because it's so buggy.