Microsoft Corp. said the executive in charge of its HoloLens headset is leaving the company, casting doubt on the future of its augmented reality project. Alex Kipman, who had been with the Redmond, Washington-based software company since 2001, was accused of inappropriate behavior toward female Microsoft employees by current and former workers in an Insider report in late May. He had been the public face of the HoloLens initiative, and his departure comes at a sensitive time for the project, as Microsoft is deciding whether to continue developing its own AR hardware, according to two people familiar with the matter. The HoloLens hardware will now be overseen by Panos Panay, who heads Microsoft’s Surface computers division, while Jeff Teper, a corporate vice president who manages areas such as the Teams collaboration product, will take over the software part of the group, they said. people. Microsoft Cloud chief Scott Guthrie detailed the changes Tuesday in a memo sent to executive staff, according to the people, who declined to be named because the company is not publicly discussing the decision. Prior to HoloLens, Kipman worked on Microsoft’s Windows and Xbox teams and was one of its longest-serving employees. The Insider report alleged that longtime company executives like Kipman had been allowed to engage in verbal and sexual harassment of workers. The best of Express PremiumTop qualityPremiumPremiumPremium Microsoft declined to comment on Kipman or the future of the product. The changes come as Microsoft awaits the fate of a $21.9 billion contract that may determine whether there is enough demand for HoloLens to continue development of the product. The company agreed to provide a customized version of the headwear for the US Army in a 10-year agreement that would include up to 121,500 goggles along with parts, logistics and program management support. But that project hasn’t gone well, and the Army said in April it could spend less than half the maximum amount. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth last month expressed her confidence that the problems in that system, called IVAS, have been resolved. Microsoft has other commercial customers for HoloLens, but needs the Army deal to ensure sufficient scale for the product, the people said. If the military deal doesn’t come to fruition, Microsoft may have to reassess whether to continue making HoloLens hardware. It already has a deal with Samsung Electronics Co. that could allow the South Korean electronics giant to start making hardware for Microsoft’s corporate customers, the people said. Kipman, as one of the original HoloLens executives and an outspoken evangelizer of the technology, was committed to having the device built in-house in a way that Panay might not be, they added. Microsoft unveiled what was then the top-secret HoloLens project at a Windows event in 2015 to much fanfare, showing off prototypes of apps like 3-D Minecraft where users could fly through room walls and desks. coffee to reveal lava and caves, as well as a holographic conference system. But the company has never been able to get the price of the headset below several thousand dollars, and as a result, it focuses on corporate applications rather than consumer ones. Questions about the future of HoloLens arise as Microsoft tries to figure out its strategy for the so-called metaverse, a concept for future computing built around users living, working and playing in interconnected virtual worlds. HoloLens had been seen as a key pillar of that strategy and changes to it could push Microsoft to focus its metaverse development on software. Much of the early metaverse work that Microsoft has shown also works with headsets from other companies and is based on software like the Teams app, where Microsoft has introduced the idea of holographic avatars in meetings. That’s part of why oversight of the HoloLens software will be handed over to Teper, as his group already houses some of the company’s metaverse engineers.