A notable former member of the Valve VR team joined Microsoft as a “Partner Architect in Mixed Reality.”
Alex Vlachos worked at Valve for around 13 years before he left in Sept. 2019 and he announced his move to Microsoft today.
Vlachos worked on the breadth of Valve VR projects over the years including its Chaperone system for keeping you safe in room-scale VR, Valve’s first public VR demo Aperture Science Robot Repair as well as its 2016 collection of experiments collectively called The Lab. He also worked on the SteamVR compositor “and other runtime systems,” according to his LinkedIn profile. He was a visible member of Valve’s VR team, offering a couple talks at the Game Developers Conference including one in 2016 breaking down Valve’s VR rendering techniques.
Microsoft previously hired USC’s Mark Bolas to work on the company’s VR efforts and the company continues to invest in ongoing research in VR and AR. The company’s 2017 line of VR headsets built by PC manufacturing partners flooded the market with lower cost hardware and features comparable to 2016’s HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Microsoft is also a key backer, along with much of the industry, of the OpenXR cross-platform initiative which is meant to make it easy for developers to create software which runs on a wide range of hardware.
While Microsoft has ended up being less than enthusiastic about the prospect of VR headsets on its Xbox console, the company also embraced the potential of standalone AR headsets with two generations of HoloLens already shipping and a military contract supplying the United States Army with high-end augmentation.
We’ll be curious to see what impact Vlachos has on Microsoft’s ongoing efforts in “mixed reality” — the all-encompassing term the company uses for its VR and AR efforts.