REDMOND, Wash.--With its annual TechFest, Microsoft gives its researchers the opportunity to show off what they have cooking in the lab to employees in other business units in a science fair setting.
Microsoft researcher Stuart Taylor shows a tool that aims to build a better the shoebox for storing photos. Icons represent characteristics such as a color, photos with certain faces, or recent photos. By moving the icon toward the center of the screen, photos with that characteristic become more heavily represented in the collection of photos displayed.
A Microsoft researcher demonstrates "writing in the air"--a project that uses a brightly colored object such as a ball or piece of fruit to draw a Chinese character that can be picked up by a Webcam. The approach represents an alternate means for entering text without a keyboard--particularly useful in Asian languages.
In an update to the LucidTouch project shown at last year's TechFest, Microsoft research is showing a smaller display that can be controlled through touch with the input coming on the back of the device. That prevents the so-called "fat finger problem" in which the finger being used for input blocks the display. Without using a rear-input or other approach, it's hard to make touch-screen devices smaller than a few inches in diameter.
Microsoft Research head Rick Rashid (left) and chief strategy officer Craig Mundie (seated) get a look at Commute UX, a project that aims to improve on the in-car user interface to minimize distraction. Even Microsoft's own systems today still require the user to devote too much attention, says researcher Ivan Tasher (rear, in blue shirt).
Sticking with the familiar concept of sticky notes, Microsoft researchers are imagining what it would be like to have a set of sticky notes that went with you wherever you are and could pop up next to any display you have with you, such as a laptop, cell phone, or eventually a head-mounted display.
Racks of servers on display at TechFest include experimental prototypes of energy-efficient processors for data centers. These low-power prototypes deliver one-third to one half the performance of high-performance processors but consume only 5 percent to 10 percent as much power.
In a social media and learning theory presentation at TechFest, graphs demonstrate the dynamics involved in developing recommendation systems that collect and weigh opinions posted across a social network.