Young people dive into Hour of Code, Cortana now on iOS and Android, and wacky out-of-office messages – Weekend Reading: Dec. 11 edition

Hour of Code, YouthSpark, education
Students from Knollwood School in Fair Haven, New Jersey, participate in the “Minecraft” Hour of Code tutorial at the Microsoft flagship store on Dec. 7, 2015 in New York City. (Donald Traill/ AP Images for Microsoft)

The moment when “I can do this!” strikes: There were millions of such moments this week around the world during Hour of Code, as young people learned to tap into the power of coding. Cortana came to iOS and Android. And, just in time for the holidays, Microsoft launched the “Center for Out of Office Excellence,” a fun site to help you create your own OOO (out-of-office) memes with a bit of ‘tude. A busy and gratifying week, to be sure:

Microsoft hosted coding sessions with young people in more than 50 countries around the world, and held hundreds of “Minecraft” Hour of Code camps in Microsoft stores in North America. Thousands of Microsoft employees volunteered their time to help teach and inspire young people during the third annual event, which coincides with Computer Science Education Week in the U.S. The “Minecraft”-inspired coding tutorial was created by the game’s designers in collaboration with engineers. Want to try the “Minecraft” Hour of Code for yourself? “Block” out some time (sorry!) and go for it!

Hour of Code, Minecraft tutorial, YouthSpark, education, youths

Cortana became available on select iPhone, Android and Cyanogen OS-powered devices, broadening its availability as a great companion experience to Windows 10 PCs. Look up info, get helpful suggestions and just plain get more done. Last May, Microsoft announced that Cortana would be the first personal digital assistant to help you “complete tasks across your devices, from PC to phone and vice versa regardless of your device of choice,” says Marcus Ash, Cortana group program manager. This week’s news is “a big step in delivering on that promise – bringing even more ways to save you time and effort anywhere you need it.”

Cortana, iOS, Android
Cortana, ready to serve you, now on select iOS, Android and Cyanogen OS-powered devices.

Planning to be out of the office for the holidays, and need to let others know with an “OOO” email? Microsoft has launched the “Center for Out of Office Excellence,” a “cheery, not-so-serious site to help you create your own OOO (out-of-office) memes,” writes Vanessa Ho. “Upload an image, choose a design type and revel in the joy of OOO.” Learn about the secret history of the Out Of Office message, and the meaning behind one popular acronym for it, OOF, and why it has that mysterious “F” in it.

Outlook, Out of Office emails

Bing unveiled new features to help you follow the debates, issues and candidates for the 2016 elections. When you search on election topics in Bing, you can now see in-depth candidate pages and the Bing Political Index, a look at where each candidate stands on an issue. Powered by the Bing Predicts engine, the index can help you better understand the candidates’ positions on the issues.

Bing, Elections 2016

TuneIn Radio, our App of the Week, is now available for Windows 10 PCs and tablets. With the free app, you can choose from more than 100,000 stations worldwide that deliver music, sports, talk radio and news. You also have access to top podcasts, too.

App of the Week, TuneIn, Windows
The Now Playing screen in the TuneIn Radio app for Windows 10.

Microsoft researchers announced a major advance in technology designed to identify the objects in a photograph or video, showcasing a system whose accuracy meets and sometimes exceeds human-level performance. Microsoft’s new approach to recognizing images also took first place in several major categories of image recognition challenges Thursday, beating out many other competitors from academic, corporate and research institutions in the ImageNet and Microsoft Common Objects in Context challenges. Also this week: Five Microsoft researchers honored as Fellows and Distinguished Scientists by the Association for Computing Machinery.

This week on the Microsoft social channels, we launched a Tumblr page, called Inspired By. It is a collection of stories celebrating the people who go above and beyond, reach their dreams, and inspire us every day. Follow along as we share more inspiring stories.

Tumblr, GIF

That’s all for this edition of Weekend Reading. Relax and restore over these next few days, and we’ll see you back here next Friday!

Posted by Suzanne Choney
Microsoft News Center Staff

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