This week, Microsoft Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie hosted an event dubbed TechForum, along with Interactive Entertainment Business President Don Mattrick, Online Services Division President Qi Lu, Business Platform Division Corporate Vice President Ted Kummert and Chief Research Officer Rick Rashid (among other technology partners from various institutions). The event was used to showcase a number of cutting edge technologies and to explain how Microsoft is investing in the R&D necessary to help push to the projects along in the development cycle.
The demos showcased at TechForum were mostly related to "big data," machine learning, and natural user interfaces and participants discussed how advances in these spaces could affect the future of computing. There were a number of interesting things being showcased at the event, some of which seem more like science fiction at this point, than reality.
Illumishare, remote object sharing. Image Source: Microsoft
One of the more practical demos at TechForum featured a Microsoft Research project called Illumishare. Illumishare is designed to give users the ability to remotely share any physical or digital object on any surface using cameras, projectors, and sensors. “People can sketch together using real ink and paper, remote meeting attendees can interact with conference room whiteboards, and children can have remote play dates in which they play with real toys.” Microsoft says of the Illumishare project. “Illumishare also integrates Skype video chatting.”
Holoflector augmented reality technology. Image Source: Microsoft
Another interesting project is dubbed Holoflector. Holoflector is a project being developed by Microsoft Research's Andy Wilson. With Holoflector technology, graphics are superimposed on to a user’s reflection to enable an augmented-reality experience. The graphics shown in the demo aren’t very high resolution, but the real-time superimposition could be useful in a wide range of markets, ranging from the fashion industry to gaming.
A couple of the other demos featured translucent OLED displays in conjunctions with cameras or overlays to allow for on-screen object manipulation or gesture recognition, but the array of technologies that were on display covered a wide spectrum from Telepresence Using Wedge Technology to automatic translation systems. There was even a project being demoed to allow Bing users to buy game or concert tickets right from a result page.
A slideshow with descriptions of each demo is available on the Microsoft company website if you’d like to see them all in action.
Marco Chiappetta is a freelance journalist specializing in PC and consumer device hardware reviews. Or in his words, Marco is a "self-confessed keyboard geek." In addition to covering Microsoft for Network World, Marco's work also appears in PC World and he is an editor at Hothardware.com.