Want To Buy Some Cool New Stuff From Microsoft? Not This Stuff, Not Yet - InformationWeek
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3/6/2007
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Want To Buy Some Cool New Stuff From Microsoft? Not This Stuff, Not Yet

Microsoft Research's TechFest featured 50 public demonstrations of things that might make their way into products.

Microsoft Research showed off a taste of potential future Microsoft products Tuesday at its annual TechFest event with 50 public demonstrations, including an Xbox game to teach kids how to program, a 3-D online mapping service like Live Maps but for the entire universe, a new way to determine if someone filling out a form on the Web is a human or a bot, intelligent hyperlinks, and collaborative, persistent search.

Those may be interesting ideas, but TechFest is meant more to bring Microsoft product groups and research teams together and figure out how to get the technology into software and into products on the Internet or on store shelves than it's meant to show off. "When we have great ideas, then we work extraordinarily hard to get those ideas into our products," Microsoft senior VP of research Rick Rashid said in a keynote address. Some of the 50 publicly demonstrated technologies and 150 overall might even find their way into products businesses use every day.

One example of that is in Mix, which combines searches of the desktop, intranets, and the Web into one shared document. Users begin with a multiple search-engine search; add titles and tags to that search and add annotations to results; make the search persistent by subscribing to feeds that update the search with, say, new news or wiki pages as they come online; and then share it with co-workers via an application like Sharepoint or on a Web site. The company says it hopes to open this capability to businesses and consumers within the next six to nine months.

Another keynote demonstration showed off SenseCam, a "black box" for people that can record video, audio, and potentially heat and sensor information when mounted on an individual. It's a personal recorder for your whole life. The company's already testing this in Britain, where a woman whose amnesia causes her to lose memories after a few days records "special" days and saves them for later viewing. Rashid says the Department of Defense and some police forces already have expressed interest in testing and deploying these systems in the field.

Those are only the beginning of a list of applications and innovations Microsoft thinks it can bring to businesses over the next few years. An application called DynaVis is a way to visualize the ERP data found in Dynamics databases. Another allows multiple users to share the same computer and display with multiple mice and keyboards, allowing workers in emerging markets where resources are scarce to work on the same computer at the same time. Another consistently analyzes the location and performance of clients on a wireless LAN to correlate the two elements and determine how location affects performance. Yet another is a browser prototype that automatically inserts new, intelligent, contextual hyperlinks into Web documents to help the user further research a topic.

We'll see how many of these ideas actually make it into products, but one thing's for certain. Even though it's often criticized for a lack of innovation, Microsoft's not short on ideas.

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