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Microsoft TechFest 2012

by Mick

Each year during TechFest, Microsoft Research displays a collection of cutting-edge research projects that offer new functionalities for Microsoft products and, often, for the greater research ecosystem.

Details are available from Microsoft Research at

Projects - Microsoft Research

While exploring work being undertaken by the Microsoft Applied Sciences Group regarding Smart Displays and the use of  Wedge Technology 

https://research.microsoft.com/en-us/events/techfest2012/projects.aspx#AppliedSciencesGroup

I came across this interesting video demonstrating a number of techniques for future Smart Interactive Displays (although I do note that this video was posted about a year ago!)

Several demonstrations are shown in this video in which 3D information is taken as input and given as output through a smart display: a steerable autoStereo 3-D display, a steerable multiview Display, a retro-reflective air-gesture display, a display that can see, and a Kinect based virtual window

(video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahynrIjTrZ8 )

Videos covering recent topics described at TechFest 2012 can be found on the website at

https://research.microsoft.com/en-us/events/techfest2012/video.aspx

IllumiShare

by Mick

Described at a recent Microsoft TechForum, IllumiShare is a low-cost peripheral device that looks like a desk lamp and enables users to create a space which can be shared remotely.

See this and other projects mentioned at

https://www.microsoft.com/presspass/features/2012/feb12/02-27TechForum.mspx

It consists of a camera and micro-projector: the camera captures video of the local workspace and sends it to the remote space and the projector projects video of the remote workspace onto the local space enabling real-time interaction between remote users.

( Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewmw8fUTa0Y )

Useful Links

https://research.microsoft.com/en-us/projects/illumishare/default.aspx

Behind-the-Screen Overlay Interactions

by Mick

Described at a recent Microsoft TechForum, Behind-the-Screen Overlay Interactions demonstrates a device that enables 3D interaction with PC applications.

See this and other projects mentioned at

https://www.microsoft.com/presspass/features/2012/feb12/02-27TechForum.mspx

The device uses a see-through OLED display combined with depth cameras which enable users to directly interact with a virtual 3D desktop. Head tracking ensures that the correct perspective is maintained as the user moves and reaches into the virtual scene to manipulate 3D objects.

(Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGa1Q7NvsI0 )

Windows 8 - Developer Preview

BUILD2011 is a Microsoft Conference (from 13-16 September at the Anaheim Convention Centre) intended to show hardware and software developers how to take advantage of future versions of Windows.

Windows 8 has been tagged as 'Windows Re-Imagined'  and has been designed to provide better security features, faster startup, and longer battery life. It will run on a wider choice of devices and chipsets and has a  a new touch-optimized interface. Windows 8 also provides the platform to create a whole new generation of full-screen apps that are based on modern web standards and (will be) available through the new Windows Store.

Watch the keynote by Steven Sinofsky,  President of the Windows and Windows Live Division at Microsoft from

https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/BUILD/BUILD2011/KEY-0001

You can see details of what's new in Windows 8 in the downloadable guide at

https://download.microsoft.com/download/1/E/4/1E455D53-C382-4A39-BA73-55413F183333/Windows_Developer_Preview-Windows8_guide.pdf

During the conference keynote, Microsoft announced their intention to give prototype PCs built by Samsung to 5000 lucky attendees. ( watch this bit ~1:59 into the keynote )

The Samsung Windows 8 Developer Preview PC, (not intended for commercial release) is a touch screen tablet PC and consists of an 11.6 inch screen with a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels, Intel Core i5 processor and 4GB of memory. It comes supplied with a stylus (or to be more precise an electromagnetic, pressure sensitive digitizer) and includes a dock and Bluetooth keyboard which allows you to use it as a more traditional 'laptop' type PC.

The package includes a years 3G service with 2GB download per month, from AT&T and is bundled with a variety of sample applications and the tools necessary for building and testing your own applications.

See a video of  this device from Channel 9

https://channel9.msdn.com/posts/Mike-Angiulo-Unboxes-the-Build-Hardware-With-Us

For lesser mortals, the Windows Developer Preview software is a pre-beta version of Windows 8 for developers. You should note this is pre-release software intended for developers

These downloads include prerelease software that may change without notice. The software is provided as is, and you bear the risk of using it. It may not be stable, operate correctly or work the way the final version of the software will. It should not be used in a production environment. The features and functionality in the prerelease software may not appear in the final version. Some product features and functionality may require advanced or additional hardware, or installation of other software.

and the additional  important note that

You can't uninstall the Windows Developer Preview. To reinstall your previous operating system, you must have restore or installation media.

More details about the Windows Developer Preview can be found at  the Windows 8 developer web-site

https://dev.windows.com

Other Links

https://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/

https://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/archive/2011/09/13/welcome-to-windows-8-the-developer-preview.aspx

.NET Gadgeteer

The .NET Gadgeteer is an open-source toolkit from Microsoft that enables you to build small electronic devices programmed using the .NET Micro Framework and Visual Studio or Visual C# Express.

Even without any knowledge of electronics, you will be able to quickly construct devices from a kit of peripherals such as sensors, lights, switches displays and many more components.

The system hardware is composed of a mainboard, containing an embedded processor, and a separate collection of modules. Modules are connected to the mainboard using a cable to connect a socket on the module with a corresponding one on the mainboard to create your working device.

For writing software, devices are programmed in C# using the .NET Micro Framework. You can correct your programs while they are running on the device which makes debugging the device a lot quicker. 

 

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQlTLNOCl90)

The first commercially available .NET Gadgeteer compatible hardware is the FEZ Spider Starter Kit from GHI Electronics. It's currently priced at $249.95 and available to pre-order but not due for first shipment until 30 September 2011.

References

https://netmf.com/gadgeteer/

https://research.microsoft.com/en-us/news/features/gadgeteer-080111.aspx

https://www.ghielectronics.com/catalog/product/297

Microsoft to Acquire Skype

by Mick 0 Comments

In a recent press release, Microsoft announce that they have entered into an agreement to purchase Skype for $8.5 billion in cash.

https://www.microsoft.com/Presspass/press/2011/may11/05-10CorpNewsPR.mspx

The Press Release mentions that Skype will support Microsoft devices like Xbox and Kinect, Windows Phone and a wide array of Windows devices, and Microsoft will connect Skype users with Lync, Outlook, Xbox Live and other communities. Microsoft will continue to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms.

Skype will become a new division within Microsoft, the Microsoft Skype Division, and be run by Tony Bates the current CEO of Skype.

A transcript of the Press conference held by Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, and Tony Bates, CEO of Skype, is available at

https://www.microsoft.com/presspass/exec/steve/2011/05-10Skype.mspx

Kinect - Sales Record

As sales of the Kinect pass 10 million,

https://www.xbox.com/en-US/Press/archive/2011/0308-Ten-Million-Kinects

Guinness World Records has recently confirmed that Kinect for the Xbox 360 is the fastest-selling consumer electronics device,

selling an average of 133,333 units a day from Nov 04th 2010 to Jan 03rd 2011 for a total of 8 million units in its first 60 days on sale.

https://community.guinnessworldrecords.com/_Kinect-Confirmed-As-Fastest-Selling-Consumer-Electronics-Device/blog/3376939/7691.html

Adaptive Hardware

A project to explore Adaptive Hardware and Context Aware Interfaces is detailed by the Microsoft Applied Sciences Group at

https://www.microsoft.com/appliedsciences/content/projects/AdaptiveHardware.aspx

The article describes the history of the project from the initial notes, through various different prototypes to a device which was made available to students participating in the 2010 Student Innovation contest at the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST) in October 2010.

https://www.acm.org/uist/uist2010/

For the contest, Microsoft provided a number of experimental Adaptive Keyboards for students to demonstrate how the combination of display and input capabilities in a keyboard could enable users to be more productive.

The keys can display different legends and be dynamically remapped as required, for example, to display command icons rather than a character set. In addition, there is a touch sensitive display window at the top of the keyboard.

The task for students was to develop innovative applications and experiences for the keyboard

Winners of the contest are detailed at

https://www.acm.org/uist/uist2010/Student_Contest.html

and a video made by Channel 9  shows the entries

Part 1 of 2

( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvepWDFBHow )

Part 2 of 2

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYX3d5L5F0Q)

NOTE: The Adaptive Keyboard is a research prototype not an actual product and was only made available to students participating in the UIST contest.