Blaise Aguera y Arcas, an engineer and imagery expert who played a key role in development of Microsoft's Bing, has left the company for rival Google, according to a The New York Times report.
At Microsoft, Aguera y Arcas focused on augmented reality, mapping, wearable computing and natural user interfaces, and was an architect of Bing Maps and Bing Mobile. He was named a distinguished engineer in 2011 and oversaw development of Photosynth, a 3D panorama photo app.
At Google, Aguera y Arcas will focus on machine learning, sources told the Times.
"He was a great colleague and we wish him the best in his future endeavors," a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement.
CNET has contacted Google for comment and will update this report when we learn more.
Aguera y Arcas joined Microsoft in 2006 after Seadragon Software, a company he founded in 2003, was acquired by the software giant. It was at Seadragon where Aguera y Arcas began working on the visualization technology behind Photosynth's digital rendering and zoom capabilities.
While employees leave companies every day for a variety of reasons, defections between these two companies have led to bitter employee custody battles. After Google announced in 2005 that it was hiring Kai-Fu Lee, an expert in speech recognition technology, Microsoft sued Lee and Google, arguing that Lee was violating a one-year noncompete agreement that was part of his Microsoft contract. Google later countersued in California court. Microsoft settled with Google in December 2005, without releasing terms of the pact.
Update, December 16 at 10:06 a.m. PT: Adds confirmation from Blaise Aguera y Arcas.
Update, December 16 at 9 a.m. PT: Adds comment from Microsoft.