Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Microsoft coming up with the new ideas

Work Place of the future

At Microsoft's TechFest, it takes a little imagination to see how the research technologies might eventually come to market.

A new video from Microsoft shows in an elegant, if utopian way, what it might look like if all of those gadgets came together several years hence. Earlier on Friday, Microsoft Business Division President Stephen Elop showed the video in a speech at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business.

One of the concepts that Microsoft is big on is the idea that people will be able to have all their information with them and be able to work from any computer display. And, since they expect nearly every flat surface to be a display some day, that means working just about anywhere.

Stephen also step back and talk about how the precursors to many of the technologies shown in the video exist today in Microsoft Research labs.

This slide and the following are screenshots from the video.

Two girls from different countries communicate using a clear whiteboard that can do on-the-fly translation.

A worker in the future will find that nearly everything in the office can serve as a computer display when needed. So much for that window view.

Robotic Receptionist

Chief Research and Strategy officer Craig Mundie on Thursday demonstrated a software-based robot that uses a combination of visual and voice recognition as well as speech synthesis to handle basic tasks. Microsoft itself plans to use the software robot to handle shuttle requests in its own buildings, which typically have a pair of receptionists to handle visitors and shuttle requests.

In a video, two Microsoft employees approach the robot, who said (in a rather robotic voice) "Which building do you want to go to?"

After checking that she heard the visitors correctly, and double-checking both workers want to take the same shuttle, the robot declares: "It should be here in four minutes."

"This is what a natural user interface is all about and it won't be just a receptionist," Mundie said. "This is just the tip of the iceberg."

Microsoft has launched a robotics effort, though it is still in its early stages.

The demo came as part of Mundie's presentation at the company's Financial Analysts Meeting here. Mundie is one of two executives (Ray Ozzie is the other) tasked with filling the very large shoes left by Bill Gates, who stepped down from full-time work at Microsoft last month.

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