Bing’s NFL playoff picks, Skype’s big milestone and the new Microsoft Envision event — Weekend Reading: Jan. 15 edition

Bing’s sports predictions, beautiful murals around the world and a photographer’s Great Barrier Reef adventure are just a few reasons to take a look back at the week’s news at Microsoft. We’ve rounded up some of the highlights in this latest edition of Weekend Reading.

If you’re settling in to watch some football this weekend, you may want to first check out which teams Bing Predicts expects to win. Seattle or Carolina? Kansas City or New England? You can find predictions for the divisional round matchups on Bing or using the new “Cortana! Powered by Bing Predicts” feature on Xbox and the Windows 10 app.

Bing also offers what ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Williams calls “a one-of-a-kind predictive NCAAB experience” with AreWeIn.net, a data-driven tool that predicts whether your favorite teams will make this year’s NCAA tournament.

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This week Skype marked a big milestone: 10 years since it changed the way people connect with colleagues and loved ones with the launch of free video calling. To celebrate, Skype is rolling out group video calling on Android, iPhone, iPad and Windows 10 mobile — and it’s free.

Skype video calling has been used in incredible ways on various platforms and devices. Couples use it to keep in touch when they’re apart, soldiers use it to witness the births of their children, explorers in remote areas connect with classrooms of students and more. Users have made nearly 2 trillion minutes of video calls over the past decade.

What’s more, Skype Translator is now available to all Skype for Windows customers.

This week Microsoft announced a new flagship event for business leaders, Microsoft Envision, to take place April 4-6 in New Orleans. It replaces Microsoft Convergence as the premier event for execs and business leaders around the world. Registration is now open.

Attendees “can expect to gain insights, uncover solutions and build connections to help them achieve more,” writes Chris Capossela, Microsoft executive vice president and chief marketing officer.

It’s also almost time to reserve your place at Build 2016; registration opens Tuesday. The three-day developer conference begins March 30 this year in San Francisco.

For those of you who appreciate unusual art, local artists in 17 cities around the world have created stunning murals that bring new color to their communities as part of the “Designed on Surface” project. The collaboration is aimed at art that embodies the spirit of people who do great things and the places that inspire them.

Graffiti artists drew inspiration from Microsoft’s core theme, “Do great things,” and each used the latest Microsoft devices to enhance their creative process.

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In the enviable adventures department, National Geographic photographer Steven Alvarez traveled light on his 10-day shoot of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef: He brought just a few Microsoft devices to capture about 10,000 photos.

The spectacular trip was part of his mission to capture the Seven Natural Wonders of the World with Lumia devices. He came away with quite a story to share, along with tips for underwater photography using a Lumia phone.

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In apps this week, there’s plenty to keep you busy this winter weekend, no matter what Mother Nature has in mind. You can try liberating the world in the World War II-inspired “Panzer Geekz,” which sends you through model landscapes with combat based in toy physics and plastic destruction rather than graphic carnage.

Or put the pedal to the metal in “Smashy Road: Wanted” and go on the run from police, SWAT teams, Army jeeps and thundering tanks as you choose from dozens of different vehicles and navigate erratically changing terrain.

The latest table pack in the “Star Wars” Pinball lineup, “Star Wars Pinball: The Force Awakens,” is now available for “Pinball FX2” on Xbox One and Xbox 360, and is coming soon to Windows 10. The two-pack ($2.99 each as an in-app purchase) presents two different perspectives on the smash hit film.

“The Banner Saga,” now out for Xbox One, is a tactical, role-playing game based on quick, brutal decisions. The game’s art director and writer share how this thrilling adventure came together in an interview with Xbox Wire.

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This week on the Microsoft Tumblr page, we caught up with Sonja Rasula, founder of Unique Markets and The Unique Space, which bring the work of local designers, artisans and creatives to the public.  Her focus on quality over quantity is fostering the future of makers in the United States.

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You’re now caught up on the latest news around Microsoft. See you back here in one week for our next edition of Weekend Reading.

Posted by Tracy Ith
Microsoft News Center Staff