Meet four people helping to design the future of Microsoft

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Behind the idea for any new piece of technology is a question: How do designers at the front end translate hunks of metal, plastic, wires, pixels and bits into a new human experience? Microsoft’s designers approach their products from their own unique angles: Kat Holmes (who is featured in the latest episode of the podcast “Next at Microsoft”) takes her fascination with messy, complicated love stories to Microsoft’s Cortana personal … Read more »

National Geographic’s Stephen Alvarez is taking smartphone photography to the next level

Stephen Alvarez on a recent photo expedition to Big Four Ice Caves in Washington state.

Here’s a very abbreviated history of photography. The oldest surviving photograph dates back to 1826 and was created by French inventor Nicéphore Niépce. A colleague of Niépce, Louis Daguerre, refined the chemical process of photography, making it more widely accessible. George Eastman made the first truly portable camera, called the “Kodak,” in 1888; in 1948, Edwin Land introduced the Polaroid Model 95, which combined portability and instant photography. From there, … Read more »

The smartest AI in the universe is more human than you think

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I’ll be the first to admit it. Cortana intimidates me. “Hi Cortana,” I begin, attempting to strike up a conversation. Her spinning blue orb dilates and contracts like a pupil. “Oh, hi,” she responds. She seems glad to hear from me. “What do you look like, Cortana?” It’s a silly question, and she calls me on it. “I’m a circle now, but I have ambitions,” she says with a hint … Read more »

Developer Rudy Huyn brings apps to the people

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Write it. Rewrite it. Write it. Erase it. Cut it. Paste it. Trash-it-trash-it-trash-it. I’m supposed to be writing about Rudy Huyn. Instead, I’m composing my own house music about the writing process with iDaft, an app he created for Windows Phone using beats from French band Daft Punk’s song “Technologic.” My next song is more provocative. Touch it. Watch it. Touch it. Watch it. Touch it. Watch it. Fax. Fax. … Read more »

Snapping photos of the future with Computer Graphics Artist Brian Townsend

Brian Townsend

Nearly everything about Brian Townsend’s job reads like science fiction. Put simply: He works in a room nicknamed “The Vault,” and he creates photographs of products that don’t yet exist. When Townsend does his job, you get a Surface tablet that’s real in every way but for one: It doesn’t yet exist in three dimensions. Not yet, anyway. If you’re confused, believe me, you’re not alone. Townsend needed to explain … Read more »

NFL sportscaster Daniel Jeremiah is a new breed of data-powered pundit

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TV sports pundits tend to focus on the predictions they get right, while sweeping past blunders under the rug. But when I asked NFL draft expert and football analyst Daniel “DJ” Jeremiah his best call in a recent draft, he answered, “I’ll tell you my biggest mistake: Russell Wilson.” Wilson, star quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks, threw two touchdowns and over 200 passing yards to win Super Bowl XLVIII last … Read more »

Pilot program helps people with sight loss navigate cities like never before

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I stood in a cul-de-sac in Reading, a suburb 30 minutes west of London, preparing for one of the most unique journeys of my life. “Journey” may seem a strong word for walking a few blocks and getting on a bus. At my normal pace, it should only be 444 steps from the Tudor-and-brick-walled quietude of Tamarisk Avenue to the bus stop around the corner. But considering the deeply meaningful … Read more »

Distinguished Engineer Laura Butler is the brilliant, mischievous mind behind some of Microsoft’s most iconic products

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Children love bubbles and water fountains. Most adults tend to find more exhilaration from an incoming text. Sometimes, however, there’s that rarest of souls, a grown-up who manages to find beauty in both. Those are the types of people you want to be around, because their contagious joie de vivre delivers a jolt of energy to your ho-hum day. Laura Butler, Distinguished Engineer at Microsoft, is one such person. Currently … Read more »

Inside Microsoft’s futuristic Applied Sciences lab with Distinguished Scientist Stevie Bathiche

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If Microsoft designers have groupies, then they look like the chipper young guys who pop out from around corners at Studio B to greet Stevie Bathiche. Tagging behind Bathiche, distinguished scientist with Microsoft’s Applied Sciences Group — an interdisciplinary team working on the next phase of interactive technologies — I feel like the rookie reporter in a geeky version of “Almost Famous.” But if he’s famous, he doesn’t know it, … Read more »

Read a pick-your-path quest inspired by ‘Project Spark’

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It’s 11 a.m. and you’re still in your pajamas – plaid shorts, a faded David Bowie t-shirt and worn moccasin slippers. Brows furrowed, deep in thought, you tap your fingers on the desktop, creating concentric circles in your now-cold coffee. Your eyes drift back and forth between a stack of notebooks (filled with your handwriting) and the Microsoft Word document on your laptop (all but empty). “’Project Spark’ – where … Read more »