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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

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: )

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


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

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: )

Useful Links

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

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: )

Adaptive Hardware

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

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.

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

and a video made by Channel 9  shows the entries

Part 1 of 2

( )

Part 2 of 2


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

3D Food Printing

by Mick 0 Comments

In the fictional TV series Star Trek a replicator is used to create the food of your choice. This Science Fiction device could be closer to reality following a project by a team from the Computational Synthesis Lab at Cornell University.

Its based on the Fab@Home 3D Printer platform, using hydrocolloids (xanthium gums and gelatin) and flavour additives as the printing materials which are loaded into syringes and placed on the printer head.

Read an interesting article on the 3D Food Printer by Designboom at

and see it in action at

There's a technical paper Hydrocolloid Printing: A Novel Platform for Customized Food Production at

Other Links

Fab@Home is an open-source project that provides the designs and tools necessary to build your own 3D printer. The Fab@Home website  is at

RearType - Text Entry for Mobile Devices

by Mick 0 Comments

RearType is a project from Microsoft and others, that explores a text entry system for mobile devices using normal keyboard keys that are placed on the back of the device. This approach helps to resolve the problem where a users fingers and hands occlude the touch point(s).

Earlier work in this area includes Lucid Touch, by Patrick Baudisch, and the Grippity Keyboard and

In RearType, a standard keyboard layout is split and rotated so that hands gripping the device have the usual keys under the fingers. This allows for 10-finger, tactile, touch-typing which may be better and quicker than using an on-screen keyboard for touch devices.

The paper 'RearType: Text Entry Using Keys on the Back of a Device' will be presented at Mobile HCI 2010 ( )

James Scott and Shahram Izadi from Microsoft Research

Leila Sadat Rezai RWTH Aachen, Germany

Dominika Ruszkowski, Xiaojun Bi and Ravin Balakrishnan from the Dept. of Computer Science,
University of Toronto, Canada

An annual showcase 'Research in Action' describes Research work from the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto. This project was described during the last event held in November 2009.

Realtime Hand Tracking

Researchers from the MIT Computer Science and Artifical Intelligence Lab have designed a system that can recognise gestures made with a multi-coloured gloved hand.

You can see the accuracy and latency of the tracking in the following video

One feature of the system is an algorithm which was developed to rapidly search graphics data in a database.

A webcam is used to capture an image of the glove. The image is reduced in size to 40 x 40 pixels and used to search a database containing digital models of a gloved hand in a range of different positions. If a match is found, the corresponding hand position is determined directly, thus eliminating the need to perform complex calculations to determine the relative positions of the hand and fingers.

Calibration, for different users, has been simplified so that the user only has to place their hand on an 8.5×11 inch piece of paper on a flat surface in front of the webcam.

More details at

and from MIT news at


by Mick 0 Comments

Pivot is a Microsoft Live Labs project that tries to make it easier to interact with massive amounts of data on the Internet.

At the heart of Pivot are 'Collections.' Collections combine large groups of similar items on the internet, so we can begin viewing the Web as a 'web' rather than a series of isolated pages. Anyone can create collections of their own.

Find out more on the Pivot Developers page, where there are tools available to assist in the generation of your own Pivot Collection