Explore Hugh MacLeod’s illustrated guide to life inside Microsoft

Hugh MacLeod in Seattle, Washington

Drawing for me is a way of processing thoughts,” said cartoonist Hugh MacLeod. “I use lines to join the dots in my mind.” Those dots he refers to cut to the core of office environments. They help capture, within a drawing, the essence of a company’s aspirations. It’s “motivational art that doesn’t suck,” or so says his company’s website. Prescriptive and inspiring is what pops into my head. You kind … Read more »

Smash tests, fire suits and indoor tornados: How UL’s controlled mayhem makes the world safer

Bob Jamieson in UL's “rain room,” where waterproof products are tested.

The Muppets have Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and UL has John Drengenberg. “Never put foil in a microwave,” Drengenberg said as he picked up a large, crumpled section of tinfoil and placed it in a white microwave. He set the timer for five minutes and hit start, triggering an impressive light show and sci-fi sound effects that made my fillings tingle. Still, my inner eighth grader leaned forward, wide-eyed. Looking up from … Read more »

The ultimate wingmen: A day in the life of four Microsoft administrative professionals

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They eat chaos for breakfast. They routinely make the impossible possible. They are the steely scaffolding of companies the world over, including Microsoft. They’re the ultimate wingmen. They’re … administrative assistants. “People don’t realize what all admins do. So much of it goes on behind the scenes, which is as it should be,” said Scott Roberts, executive assistant to Microsoft marketing executive Allison Watson. “The thing is, if people don’t … Read more »

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

Daniel Jeremiah

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 »