Six of the best gadgets from Microsoft TechFest

This blog has spent a good many pixels decrying the billions that Microsoft spends on R&D for one reason -- its R&D efforts have not produced hoards of cool, profitable products that keep the company "relevant" (as American Idol's Simon Cowell would say). But we admit that those billions do produce some cool bits of technology. Nowhere is that more apparent than the company's annual R&D celebration, TechFest, which took place this week in Redmond.

The annual TechFest event showcases the stuff from hundreds of researchers from Microsoft's worldwide labs in China, England, India and the United States. Network World has showcased many of the most promising technologies in a 44-page photograph slideshow. We at Microsoft Subnet have picked our six favs among the technologies featured.

1. Family Archive 

Microsoft Researcher David Kirk showed how users can sort and file photos using an experimental device that is similar to the Surface tabletop computer.

Family archive

2. Commute UX

Commute UX is a project designed to allow drivers to more easily interact with devices and information in their cars, using technologies such as speech and touch. Click for photo of Commute UX

3. Sticky Notes in Augmented Reality

People love sticky notes but they aren't so practical with a computer, as they can quickly clutter up the screen. This is a project that creates virtual sticky notes in a real 3-D space that are anchored to the screen of the portable computer.

Sticky notes in 3D

4. Low-Power Processors in the Data Center

Racks of servers demonstrated prototypes of low-power processors for data centers that deliver one-third to half the performance of high-performance processors while consuming only 5 percent to 10 percent as much power. Click for photo of low-power processors.

5. Specification Inference for Security

A new algorithm from Microsoft Research automatically infers explicit information-flow security specifications from program code, making it easier to develop and run analytic tools for detecting software vulnerabilities. Click for screen shot of the inference algorithm.

6. Audio Spatialization and AEC for Teleconferencing

This technology enhances the experience of a multiparty conferencing by using highly realistic, immersive spatial audio for loudspeakers and headphones. While we don't have a demo of the sound it creates, the next best thing is a photo of someone engaged in the demo.

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