10 Microsoft research projects

A sneak peek at 10 technologies developed in Microsoft's R&D labs

Surface: It looks like an ordinary table, except for the object recognition and sophisticated software that allows multiple people to "control" their part of the interactive screen via touch.

Surface: It looks like an ordinary table, except for the object recognition and sophisticated software that allows multiple people to "control" their part of the interactive screen via touch.

Codename: Visual Studio 2010

Visual Studio is the staple of most Microsoft-centric development shops, and the next release (which will likely ship next year) will focus on new collaborative tools, direct access to the OSLO repository for data modeling, and an update of .Net to Version 4.

One of the most compelling new features is the brand new Architecture Explorer, which allows development teams to see a model of the existing development framework and find any existing code assets that are not well categorized.

Other new features include unified modeling language support and a new debugging tool that is especially useful for find non-reproducible bugs by automatically creating data sets.

Codename: BlueTrack

Laser technology is advancing quickly, and one product proves this point dramatically.

The Microsoft Explorer 1362 mouse (and Explorer Mini 1363) uses a newly invented BlueTrack technology that works on a variety of rough surfaces.

I tested the mouse on metal, wood and tile -- it worked perfectly, while a "last gen" laser mouse from Microsoft failed to even move the cursor.

BlueTrack captures 8,000 images per second, casts a much wider and brighter beam, and -- most importantly -- reads data using a high-contrast sensor.

For those who need mouse precision anywhere, the 1362 model captures data at 4000DPI.

Codename: Robotic Receptionist

Here's a project I can relate to on a personal level, having found myself lost and running late for meetings during my visit to Microsoft in mid-September. The campus consists of more than 100 buildings spread across a wide swatch of Redmond and the surrounding area.

Although it's so new that the only information available on this project comes from a speech by Craig Mundie at the EmTech08 Emerging Technologies Conference held recently, the robotic receptionist project is clearly a sign of how computer technology is evolving. Mundie said in his EmTech keynote that natural interfaces equipped with voice and facial recognition features will become part of our daily lives over the next 10 years and will not require any hands-on input from the user.

The robotic receptionist -- which will be used at Microsoft headquarters, likely next year -- will help Microsoft visitors find shuttles to get around campus. The receptionist can even identify visitors based on what they are wearing and provide information on shuttle routes using GPS tracking data.

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