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Microsoft Shows Off Future Product Tech

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the still-waiting-on-lcars dept.

Input Devices 61

adeelarshad82 writes "Microsoft opened a portion of its fifth TechFair to Silicon Valley residents, demonstrating more than 15 technologies, which included everything from real-time translation to mobile-to-mobile networking to improved image stitching. The top two that really stood out were the translating telephone, which actually used no 'telephone' at all — it was a test to discover how well Microsoft's speech algorithms could interpret speech, translate it, and then speak the translation using text-to-speech algorithms — and Manual Deskterity, a new paradigm for a user interface; a right-handed user's left hand, for example, can be used for coarse manipulations of objects, while the right can be used for fine manipulation, such as with a pen. It sounds a bit simplistic, at least at this stage. Since one of the charters of Microsoft Research is that the work should eventually be moved to product teams, there's a good chance that the prototypes will eventually be made available to the public at large."

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61 comments

Will it become real?? (3, Funny)

Itninja (937614) | more than 3 years ago | (#32133344)

Two words: Courier Tablet

Re:Will it become real?? (4, Insightful)

node 3 (115640) | more than 3 years ago | (#32134028)

That's what I thought was so funny about this part:

Since one of the charters of Microsoft Research is that the work should eventually be moved to product teams, there's a good chance that the prototypes will eventually be made available to the public at large.

There's pretty much zero chance of that research reaching the public.

There's no doubt that MS Research gets into some interesting stuff, but very little of it ever sees the light of day. The main reason for this is precisely because they do get into some interesting stuff. It's really difficult to make a product out of something that uses one hand for coarse actions and the other for fine actions, or to build an actual, working universal translator.

Re:Will it become real?? (1, Flamebait)

gig (78408) | more than 3 years ago | (#32134348)

Microsoft Research is a nerd-fest only. It's a hobbyist fair. Entertainment for geeks. It has nothing to do with actual product development.

Microsoft's product development is all done outside the company:

- Windows is a clone of Mac
- MS Office is a Mac app
- DOS was a clone of CP/M
- XBox is a clone of PlayStation
- Zune is a clone of iPod
- Bing is a clone of Google

None of this stuff came out of Microsoft Research.

So yes, zero chance that this latest nerd-fest produces any products.

Re:Will it become real?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32134564)

Actually, the word "clone" is usually not correct. "Poor quality imitation" is better for most of what Microsoft does. As in: - Steve Ballmer is a poor quality imitation of a CEO.

Re:Will it become real?? (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 3 years ago | (#32134960)

Microsoft Research is a nerd-fest only. It's a hobbyist fair. Entertainment for geeks. It has nothing to do with actual product development.

MSR is responsible for some important bits of .NET, which is definitely very much a shipping product.

Just because you don't know about it, doesn't mean that it does not exist.

Re:Will it become real?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32135482)

nerd fest? well gosh you just described the linux world, the unix world, the python world, the ruby world etc. Arent you brilliant.

People forget some of the simplest little things that are used regularly everyday were actually Microsoft ideas. Simple things like iframes in a browser all the way down to AJAX which is so hip these days.

Re:Will it become real?? (1)

mikestew (1483105) | more than 3 years ago | (#32139742)

Ah, an opportunity to make the tired old claim of "Microsoft doesn't innovate"! Who can turn that down?

Let's see, off the top of my head, a list of MSR products that made it into production:
SPOT watches and the like
F#
Pieces of SQL Server
That thing with the little LCD display in the lid of a laptop, pretty sure that was MSR
Photosynth (with credit to University of Washington for collaboration)

That's just what I can think of, I'm sure I missed a few. Does MSR crank out a lot of stuff that will never see the light of day? You bet. I used to see the same projects with minor updates at the MSR internal tech fair year after year ("what *did* you do all year?"). A lot of the stuff, though cool, was never going to get picked up by a product team.

On the other hand, one cannot think monolithically where MSR works on X which is then productized into Y. In my made-up example, SQL Server needs something to boost index performance. "Hey, MSR has a little thing they've been working on, let's integrate that into the engine." Now SQL Server has better perf, but you'll never know that MSR was behind some of it.

Re:Will it become real?? (1)

SteeldrivingJon (842919) | more than 3 years ago | (#32147640)

"That thing with the little LCD display in the lid of a laptop, pretty sure that was MSR"

Um... that's kind of underwhelming. Not the kind of thing that rises to the level of requiring MSR brains, I don't think.

Re:Will it become real?? (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 3 years ago | (#32134970)

There's pretty much zero chance of that research reaching the public.

There's no doubt that MS Research gets into some interesting stuff, but very little of it ever sees the light of day.

Actually, quite a lot of their stuff sees the light of the day - it's just not often credited as such, and usually vastly reworked from the original prototypes.

Re:Will it become real?? (1)

node 3 (115640) | more than 3 years ago | (#32136660)

There's pretty much zero chance of that research reaching the public.

There's no doubt that MS Research gets into some interesting stuff, but very little of it ever sees the light of day.

Actually, quite a lot of their stuff sees the light of the day - it's just not often credited as such, and usually vastly reworked from the original prototypes.

Not really. This Willy Wonka stuff they show off never makes it out, and that's what I'm referring to. The "vastly reworked" stuff you are referring to is a tame version of the "oh, this is cool" stuff.

Re:Will it become real?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32136832)

Indeed, kinda like the SCO action figure they came up with, complete with embedded audio that says "brrraaaiiiinnnnnsss". (Wooden stakes, silver bullets, and holy water sold separately, none of which are really very useful against THIS monstrosity.)

Re:Will it become real?? (1)

w0mprat (1317953) | more than 3 years ago | (#32138122)

Thus you have highlighted bug #1 with 21st century technology. There's no shortage of research, but it just doesn't reach consumers, the real world is stuck several paradigms back in the mouse+keyboard+desktopmetaphor that was forged in a research lab upwards of 30 years ago. The best change I've noted reccently is capacitive multitouch screens on a few small computing devices, and a few smartphones finally getting usable voice recognition. I can't quite put my finger on the problem, but you know what I mean.

Re:Will it become real?? (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 3 years ago | (#32139472)

Two words: Courier Tablet

Hey, come on. It's not Microsoft's fault that they got confused between their viable products and an Elite's Imperial spaceships.

Maybe a winner (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#32133434)

One of the technologies showcased looked a little bit interesting. It was a "pseudo-3D". Here's from TFA:

"Akeley's prototype uses depth filtering, layering different focal planes on top of one another to give the eye something to focus upon as a 3d object moves "closer" and "farther" from the eye."

Could it mean 3D without funny glasses? I have no idea, but I hope so.

Re:Maybe a winner (0, Troll)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 3 years ago | (#32134480)

Could it mean 3D without funny glasses? I have no idea, but I hope so.

Given Microsoft's penchant for announcing vaporware, I'll believe it when I see it. However, if it means 3D without headaches or eyestrain, I'll take it--even if it does come from Microsoft.

Re:Maybe a winner (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32136200)

How is it vaporware when they demonstrated it to all the attendees? This is the research arm showing their research. What else did you want to see? Oh wait, you didn't even go. Nice job, troll.

What About Javascript? (0)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#32133470)

Will any of this new MS technology help Slashdot process Javascript better?

Re:What About Javascript? (1, Insightful)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 3 years ago | (#32133562)

No, Slashdot is just fucked. Not even Google Chrome (faster than a speeding french fry!) can save it now.

Only those of us who can figure out how to get around their ajax crap stand a chance.

Re:What About Javascript? (1, Offtopic)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#32133570)

i have most of it disabled (classical comments view and all). Still some areas that revert to 2.x style tho.

Re:What About Javascript? (0, Offtopic)

leamanc (961376) | more than 3 years ago | (#32133872)

I too have the classic discussion system enabled in my prefs. The performance issues are one thing, but I can't figure out what the fuck's what with the 2.0 version. Every time I scroll, the page seems to go nowhere, then it offers to load "x" number of more comments, which then changes to a completely random "x" again. What a god-awful mess. If this was an attempt to mimic Digg's discussion system (and aren't most recent Slashdot developments a reaction to Digg's popularity?), then they failed miserably.

And, as mentioned, even if you opt for the classic discussion system, you can't escape some 2.0 elements, like on the front page. And don't even get me started on metamod. It is not meta-moderating anymore, and I'm not even sure what the new system is supposed to accomplish. The FAQ hasn't been updated to clue us in on what any of this shit means.

Re:What About Javascript? (1)

jon3k (691256) | more than 3 years ago | (#32175684)

amen. how do I turn off these fucking comments already. firefox grinds to a halt every time I open a story from google reader.

One of these words does not belong (0, Troll)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | more than 3 years ago | (#32133532)

New
Innovative
Revolutionary
Creative
Cool
Microsoft

Can you figure out which one?

Re:One of these words does not belong (3, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#32133546)

Can you figure out which one?

I'm going to guess Innovative because it's the only one that starts with a vowel? Or maybe Revolutionary because it uses all the vowels (even the sometimes vowel)?

Re:One of these words does not belong (4, Interesting)

Hoplite3 (671379) | more than 3 years ago | (#32133684)

Revolutionary.

Microsoft research does good work. Some of the ideas that come out of there are definitely cool and creative, like surface. Others are new and innovative, like the tablet. What Microsoft can't seem to do is to move ideas from research into products. There's a big institutional roadblock that prevents them from pushing new, innovative, creative, and cool ideas out the door. The result: no revolution.

And yeah, I think it will kill them in the long run if they can't fix that problem.

Re:One of these words does not belong (2, Insightful)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#32133710)

Singularity [wikipedia.org] was an interesting project. I only wish that they would have shepherded it along until it was closer to a commercial product.

Re:One of these words does not belong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32140368)

It's not dead, it's Midori.

But it'll be a long time before it's commercialized.

Re:One of these words does not belong (1)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 3 years ago | (#32134260)

Can't they just hire someone from Bell Labs who has actually turned an idea into an awesome product the entire world relies on?

Where is the flaw? Do they think they're the Yankees and can just throw more money at it? Maybe they need to start thinking along the lines of the A's and try instead to build intelligently and within their means.

Re:One of these words does not belong (1)

mick88 (198800) | more than 3 years ago | (#32134846)

The sad fact is Yankees win world series and Billy Beane's A's never do. Microsoft _is_ the Yankees (or modern-day Chelsea for our UK brethren) of technology. Lotta money and they keep winning, even if people don't like it.

Yes there have been teams on the cheap that pop up and win every so often. But when it's an open-market free-for-all (no salary caps or revenue sharing) like MLB or the English Premier League, the teams with the money win the leagues.

So Microsoft, Cisco, IBM and HP (and now Google?) will keep winning - that's what money does for you. Not romantic, kinda sucks, and makes us all a little happy when one of the big boys fail and the upstart gets a moment in the sun.

But that doesn't mean you can't be a twins fan / scunthorpe united supporter / linux nerd. Just recognize that you're in the minority and so what? Who gives a rip? Be happy.

Re:One of these words does not belong (1)

williamhb (758070) | more than 3 years ago | (#32135734)

I don't know ... Microsoft Surface and Project Natal were both pieces of cool research that have moved into products. MS are aware that it's been hard to transition technology between Microsoft Research and the product teams, but it is an issue they are working on, and seem to be getting better at.

Re:One of these words does not belong (1)

dncsky1530 (711564) | more than 3 years ago | (#32135842)

After reading the article and going through the pictures I was quite surprised how mundane a lot of the technologies are. The tablet table or whatever it's called has been showcased by Microsoft for years but they've yet to produce a competitor OS to the iPhone or Andriod. I noticed an ad for the Kin next to the article Another big ticket item seemed to be the photo stitching for images - which reminds me of the software that my Canon camera came with 5 years ago. This might work better but it is five years on and I'm sure Canon has improved on this as well.

Re:One of these words does not belong (1)

xtracto (837672) | more than 3 years ago | (#32137256)

I know that some of MS Research stuff is really good. I've been to some academic presentations from people working there.

I find current MS status exactly as how Xerox was when Apple and MS begun. PARC labs where doing a lot of really good stuff but the management failed to transform it to real useful products. It will be other small companies who will come to do it... that in theory, of course patents will ultimately block such kind of innovation. yay!

A Three Hour Tour... (-1, Troll)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#32133572)

Since one of the charters of Microsoft Research is that the work should eventually be moved to product teams, there's a good chance that the prototypes will eventually be made available to the public at large.

A "good chance"?

When you charter a boat run by Skipper and Gilligan, far more likely your charter is going to end up with everyone isolated on an island for years, never to be found.

Just look around at all of the fine innovations from Microsoft R&D that are real shipping products today!

Re:A Three Hour Tour... (3, Insightful)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 3 years ago | (#32133654)

Quite a few actually. See http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/ [microsoft.com]

Name two (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#32133716)

Browsing through there I found one - Destination Maps.

Only it doesn't show up at all in Safari using Bing Maps. Have they really delivered it? I cannot say.

They have a ton of talk about the amazing integration of Microsoft R&D in products, but again very little I see as shipping things or core features - even Destination Maps is more of an adornment than a core feature, and one I doubt more than a handful of people use day to day.

The crime of it all is they do have brilliant people there, but they up doing the world very little good.

Re:Name two (1)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 3 years ago | (#32133910)

http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/people/surajitc/

http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/about/brochure-7.aspx

There are lots of examples on the site I originally linked to.

Re:Name two (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32134944)

Microsoft RoundTable [polycom.com] is another. I worked on that project, and work on several other projects inside Redmond as a contractor. Microsoft's problems are the same as in most big companies (including Apple; much of Apple's research is actually done by outside contractors and development firms): an institutionalized system that makes it impossible to innovate. Safety and zero risk is prized by mid and upper management over innovation and risk. And so it falls to contractors and those outside the company (like MSR, which effectively operates as its own separate company) to produce the innovation.

.
Unfortunately, where Microsoft falls short of Apple is that Apple uses fewer ex-Apple staff for these roles; Microsoft tends to bring back it's former employees with alarming regularity which means a strong resistance to innovation and creativity.

Deskterity (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 3 years ago | (#32133674)

This might not be far-fetched at all. I identified decades ago, before I was even legally an adult, that I had precisely that division of labor between my two hands and arms, and indeed probably between both entire halves of my body and brain: one half performed brute force maneuvers requiring strength, while the other specialized in performing actions requiring precision. Thus I write and manipulate a spoon with one hand, while using the other to throw a ball, swing a bat, and wield a steak knife. To some degree I've tried to thwart this as an adult, by trying to "teach" each hemisphere to be less specialized, but I still throw like a girl with that other hand.

Re:Deskterity (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#32137690)

Wacom has a fancy tablet-with-integrated-display called the Cintiq, it has buttons on it that you can use to rotate the image... with your left hand, while you're holding a stylus with the right. Microsoft is late to the party.

Oh no, we know what this is all about... (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 3 years ago | (#32134184)

Market testing.... That's what MS does with new ideas... but it doesn't mean they will produce.

The greatest MS inventions... (-1, Offtopic)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 3 years ago | (#32134362)

  • Direct X
  • XBox
  • Start button
  • Whatever you call the 7 feature where you drag your window to the left or right edge of the screen to have it fill half the screen. This is by far the most useful thing they have done since forever.
  • .NET
  • Bing Maps
  • the Super key
  • DOS

What do all of these things have in common? (though I'm not sure about the drag-to-edge thingy).

Somebody else did them first.

regarding "improved image stitching" (1)

Animaether (411575) | more than 3 years ago | (#32134862)

I wish I could be more impressed by that.. but I'm not. It's already trivial to...
1. take a video source
2. split up into images
3. from those images, sort by quality (least blur to most blur)
4. map them onto the panoramic plane (thanks to it being video, you can use motion vectors to help this process, but it's not really needed.. existing algorithms will chew through them easily enough)
5. remove those images that are superfluous (i.e. not needed for covering the entire canvas)
6. blend (using al algorithm a la smartblend to try to keep the number of decapitated people down)

You can have fun with some movies that way...
Terminator 4: http://img194.imageshack.us/img194/1629/moviepanosterminator4.jpg [imageshack.us]
The Mist (may be considered a spoiler, for those who haven't seen it yet): http://img41.imageshack.us/img41/3221/moviepanosthemist.jpg [imageshack.us]

The article notes that the panorama of one of the microsoft buildings is 'crisp'.. well sure, when scaled down a good fraction of the original video's size in terms of coverage. Now if they combined multiple frames for a superresolution image (similar to how astronomers might image stack a bunch of blurry shots and out comes a high-resolution detailed image) and thus panorama, that'd be more fun.

Manual Deskterity (1)

Undead Waffle (1447615) | more than 3 years ago | (#32135110)

"Manual Deskterity" (did not see this term referenced in the slideshow by the way - where did it come from?) sounds like something they developed just so they could patent it. This seems like the natural progression for something like the Wiimote or possibly even an iPad-like device, considering it's what people do naturally anyway.

Funny thing I noticed flipping through the slideshow: many of the annoying pop-up mouseover ads open a bing window (including the word "Apple"). Of course there are also Google ads unobtrusively placed under the main content of the page. If only Microsoft had some people around who could research ways of making their ads less annoying...

Journalism Fail (1)

tirefire (724526) | more than 3 years ago | (#32136748)

Microsoft opened a portion of its fifth TechFair to Silicon Valley residents, demonstrating more than 15 technologies...

Good god, I thought schools taught people to count up to one hundred AT LEAST.

right-handed/left-handed (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 3 years ago | (#32138256)

> "a right-handed user's left hand, for example, can be used for coarse manipulations of objects, while the right can be used for fine manipulation, such as with a pen"

Or you can just plug a second mouse in. People freak out when they see it ("that can't work!") but it does. Just pick two mice with a different number of "mickeys" resolution.

Re:right-handed/left-handed (1)

michaelhood (667393) | more than 3 years ago | (#32142570)

> "a right-handed user's left hand, for example, can be used for coarse manipulations of objects, while the right can be used for fine manipulation, such as with a pen"

Or you can just plug a second mouse in. People freak out when they see it ("that can't work!") but it does. Just pick two mice with a different number of "mickeys" resolution.

have you found anything that works to have two cursors simultaneously in windows?

Re:right-handed/left-handed (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 3 years ago | (#32142890)

have you found anything that works to have two cursors simultaneously in windows?

You could try drinking until your eyes cross - Windows has been known to do that to people ... it won't make Windows run any better, but it will dull the pain :-)

Lack of imagination (1)

mattr (78516) | more than 3 years ago | (#32139416)

It would be nice to see a real article about the more interesting sounding things but as it is, I'm not impressed.
Check out this page, Paul Haeberli's wonderful old site Grafica Obscura from when he was at SGI.
http://www.graficaobscura.com/merge/index.html [graficaobscura.com]

This is his famous image merging by projective warp program, where he could take a bunch of snapshots and automatically warp and stitch them together. I think this is from 1995 or so. It references papers from 1991 and this one from 1994: S. Mann and R. W. Picard. Virtual Bellows: Constructing High Quality Stills from Video. IEEE International Conference on Image Processing, Mov, 1994.

Many researchers have published about extracting features from blurry views. I remember one ACM Siggraph article I believe from years back about using multiple beams to achieve high resolution images underwater for example.

The deskterity and pseudo-3d sound interesting but honestly there is very little to see in this article.

We get this every few months (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | more than 3 years ago | (#32142430)

A few months back, we were seeing comparisons between five Microsoft mice prototypes against the then-new Apple Magic Mouse (the mouse with a build in touch surface). What everyone recognized then and seems to recognize now is that there's a big difference between an actual shipping product and prototypes that may be cost prohibitive, cumbersome, or otherwise unacceptable to consumers due to the numerous details that need to be worked out in the process of going from prototype to product. Microsoft is quickly becoming one of the biggest makers of vaporware in the market, and they need to stop it before they lose (even more) credibility.
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