Project Premonition aims to prevent major health disasters, solar-powered Internet access increases in Kenya and Surface Hub availability announced – Weekend Reading: June 12 edition

Just another regular workweek gone by, you say? Not at Microsoft. We’ve been busy, with mosquitoes, drones and disease prevention in our sights; working to increase Internet access in rural areas around the world; and providing a very big canvas for collaboration in the office.

Microsoft researchers are working with academic partners on Project Premonition, a system that aims to detect infectious disease outbreaks before they become widespread. The system collects and analyzes mosquitoes to look for early signs that potentially harmful diseases are spreading. Drones fly mosquito traps in and out of remote areas in a semi-autonomous way. Once the mosquitoes have been collected, the next challenge is to analyze them for microbes and viruses that could pose a threat to humans. The initial work on Project Premonition was presented publicly Wednesday at TechFair, a Microsoft innovation showcase in Washington, D.C.

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Many of us take Internet access for granted. But of the 7 billion-plus people on the planet, more than 4 billion still don’t have it. Efforts to change that are underway. Paul Garnett, director of Microsoft’s Technology Policy Group, recently made a return visit to Nanyuki, Kenya, to check on the progress of a unique project Microsoft has launched with several partners to deliver low-cost, solar-powered Internet access and device charging to rural Kenyans. The project, launched two years ago, utilizes “white spaces” – TV frequencies assigned to broadcasters but not used locally – that can be used to provide wireless, broadband access to the 80 percent of Kenyans who do not have Internet access.

Internet, youths, education
Students in Kenya, where Microsoft and its partners are delivering low-cost, solar-powered Internet access to parts of the country.

Get ready for the big screen, and the really big screen: The Surface Hub, Microsoft’s new large-screen collaboration device, will be available for businesses to order in 24 markets starting July 1. Available in two sizes, ginormous and more ginormous (or, 55 inches and 84 inches), the Surface Hub is designed for anyone to be able to walk up and use it, providing an engaging way to share ideas and information. It replaces disparate, conference-room tools – including a whiteboard, wireless receiver, projector and audio-video system.

Surface Hub
The Surface Hub harnesses the power of Windows 10, Skype for Business, Office, OneNote and Universal Windows apps.

Speaking of big, the new Xbox One 1TB console was announced, with more room for the games and media that you love. Xbox One 1TB consoles will begin shipping to retailers June 16 in the U.S., and later this month in select markets, and will start at $399. Also, standard Xbox One 500GB consoles are now permanently priced at $349 in the U.S. and select regions. Also this week, a new partnership between Microsoft and virtual reality pioneer Oculus VR announced the inclusion of an Xbox One controller and Xbox Wireless Adapter for Windows with every Oculus Rift that ships in early 2016.

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Microsoft Disability Answer Desk now has American Sign Language support. The ASL support lets people who are deaf or hard of hearing get assistance for using Microsoft products in general, as well as assistive technologies such as screen magnifiers, speech recognition software and their devices’ accessibility settings. The support is currently offered in the U.S. only, though the company is continuing to evaluate the need for potential expansion internationally.

Woman standing in front of a blue background, with Microsoft logo on left side, uses American Sign Language to describe new Disability Answer Desk feature.

Ahead of the official start of summer, there are some great children’s games for Windows and Windows Phone. In our App of the Week, “Talking Ben the Dog” (free, Windows Phone), a canine who’s a retired chemistry professor, helps players mix test tubes, with some wacky results. In “Puzzles & Pixies” (free from the Windows Store and Windows Phone Store), you help the Pixies save their forest, with more than 200 levels in a colorful matching game. Meanwhile, fans of Disney games can snap up 10 of them for free from the Windows Phone Store and in the Windows Store now through June 17. The games include popular titles that range from “Disney Solitaire” (usually $4.99) to “Where’s My Water?” (usually $1.99).

games, Windows Store, Windows Phone Store
“Where’s My Mickey? XL” for Windows is among the Disney games for Windows and Windows Phone that are available for free through June 17.

And finally, this week on our quest to find people who #DoMore, we met David Harris, a tech entrepreneur who’s opening STEM career opportunities for students of color.

#DoMore, Instagram, STEM,
David Harris. Photo by Nate Watters.

Thanks for joining us for Weekend Reading!

Posted by Suzanne Choney
Microsoft News Center Staff

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