In this edition of Weekend Reading, we’ve got stories on the worldwide launch of the Xbox One, Windows Phone getting Instagram and holiday shopping help galore.
On Nov. 22, after months of anticipation, Microsoft launched Xbox One with parties around the globe, starting in New Zealand and Australia, and extending to Los Angeles, New York, London and Paris, among other places. In New Zealand, Dan Livingstone was one happy guy, being among the very first to have the console in his hands, while in Sydney, Australia, Master Chief joined the festivities, too.
In New York, the party started early, in Times Square and in store lines, as fans got ready to bring home the Xbox One, with the early hours of the event chronicled by Xbox LIVE’s Major Nelson, aka Larry Hryb.
Speaking of parties, we told you that when you play online games on Xbox One, you’re included in an Xbox Live party – and you don’t even need to leave your house. And if you just want to play and brag about your moves – and show them to the world (or just a few friends), you can easily do that with Xbox One’s new Game DVR and Upload features using SkyDrive.
Game developers, who are pretty excited about Xbox One and the new-generation Kinect, did some gentle bragging of their own as they shared how they’re taking advantage of Kinect’s increased precision and sensitivity.
It was a big week for Windows Phone, as Instagram, the most searched-for app in the Windows Phone Store, became available. Yes, Instagram, one of the fastest, most beautiful and fun ways to share photos with friends and family, is now paired with some of the world’s best camera phones (can you spell Nokia L-U-M-I-A?). You can even share to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Foursquare right from the app. Instagram, in beta, is available here.
Also out now for Windows Phone is traffic app Waze, which uses crowd-sourced info to plug you into a network of drivers in your area who share real-time travel tidbits, including shortcuts and alternate routes. With just a tap, share your own reports about traffic, accidents, road closures and more.
“Grand Theft Auto V” fans who want to go even deeper into the mayhem can now customize their fast and furious rides through a companion app, “Grand Theft Auto: iFruit,” now available for Windows Phone 8 devices. And, an update to the American Airlines app on Windows Phone now gives you the ability to add your boarding pass to your phone and see live updates to your flight at a glance. Then there’s this week’s Staff App Pick: AMC Story Sync for “The Walking Dead,” which brings a great second-screen experience to an already heart-pounding show.
Finally, be sure to check out the Xbox One Celebration app collection in the Windows Phone Store. You’ll find plenty in this new collection that makes the most of your Windows Phone as an Xbox One companion, including games like “Halo: Spartan Assault” and “Angry Birds Star Wars II” – and apps like Hulu Plus and Crackle that let you play, pause, and resume your favorite video content across devices. Get the all-new Xbox One SmartGlass app to help configure and interact with your Xbox One.
All told, Windows Phone is seeing an average of 500 new titles every day. And Windows Phone popularity keeps increasing. We told you about a report from IDC’s Mobile Phone Tracker that shows Windows Phone shipments in Latin America increased 20 percent in the third quarter of this year over last year, according to a new report from IDC’s Mobile Phone Tracker, and that on a global scale, year-on-year growth is 156 percent, well above Windows Phone competitors.
If you haven’t started your holiday tech shopping, we showed you a great selection of tablets and laptops that can help you wrap up your gift hunt with ease. Take your pick: 8- and 10-inch tablets, laptops that convert into tablets, tablets with click-in keyboards and touch laptops. We also made it easy for you to assemble your high-tech wish list with this slideshow of goodies.
Meanwhile, we unveiled the Microsoft Store on eBay to offer yet another shopping venue. It’s a place where our customers “can expect the same safe online shopping experience, return policy and free shipping from the Microsoft Store on eBay that they’ve come to expect on microsoftstore.com,” Kevin Eagan, Microsoft’s vice president, online commerce, wrote in a post.
It’s not only shopping that can be stressful during the holidays; there’s also email overload, with various offers and deals constantly streaming into our inboxes. We shared some tips to help you “train” your Outlook inbox during this chaotic time.
Of course, stress is with many of us 24/7, not just during the holidays. What if your computer could tell you to chill out – take a deep breath or take a walk? That’s exactly what a team of Microsoft researchers within the VIBE group (Visualization and Interaction for Business and Entertainment) within Microsoft Research are working on, technology that would make that kind of intervention possible.
It’s a work in progress focusing on human computer interaction (HCI) and clinical psychology. Three years ago, the team started working in the area of affective computing, designing systems — some including wearable computing devices — that attempt to identify your mood and react accordingly, in order to help you reflect on your own state.
On Wednesday, Mary Czerwinski, principal researcher of the VIBE Group, delivered the closing keynote at the AMIA 2013 Annual Symposium in Washington, D.C., where she shared her team’s innovative research results to further advance the field of affective computing with the health community.
Meanwhile, in Germany, Microsoft technology was used to create an intelligent operating room at a leading hospital, where Windows Embedded easily integrated new devices and data sources without requiring significant changes to the underlying platform.
“We’re internationally renowned for our pioneering work in urology, and for developing new techniques for lifesaving endoscopic surgery,” explained the doctor who is head of the hospital’s urology department. “We wanted to create a digital operating room that would allow us to train more surgeons through real-time video transmission of surgeries, including ultrasound and X-ray images.”
From the hospital in Germany, we go to a huge pharmacy chain in Canada. There, pharmacy retail giant the Jean Coutu Group announced it selected Microsoft Dynamics for Retail to manage all its retail operations, from its headquarters to point-of-sale devices in its stores. The Canadian company will use Microsoft Dynamics in more than 400 stores, 3,000 point-of-sale systems and 11,500 devices starting in 2014. The company employs more than 19,000 people.
That’s it for this edition of Weekend Reading. Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving, and we’ll see you next week!
Posted by Suzanne Choney
Microsoft News Center Staff