Getting everyone in the game at Xbox, helping football coaches with smart mouthguards — Weekend Reading: Sept. 2 edition

| Vanessa Ho

It may have been the final days of August, but Microsoft was buzzing all week with interesting news and noteworthy stories. So before you take off for the summer’s last camping trip or get the kids ready for another school year, check out what happened at Microsoft this week.

A high school football player wears a mouth guard while standing next to a trainer on a football field
Middletown High School athletic trainer Craig Olejniczak, left, consults with a player wearing an i1Biometric Vector MouthGuard. (Photo by Kelly Guenther.)

With football starting up again, i1Biometrics, a software company in Kirkland, Washington, has teamed up with Microsoft Azure to create smart mouthguards that help high school football coaches make safer decisions from the sidelines.

Sensors in i1Biometrics’ Vector MouthGuards collect data on hits and tackles, and syncs it with a secure cloud environment powered by Microsoft Azure. The real-time data helps trainers and coaches decide on play changes and whether to take out a player to prevent future injuries.

“The effects of concussions are cumulative – there really should be a history – so our feeling was that we should be tracking the exposure to athletes from the beginning of their careers. The reason we chose mouthguards is that they’re directly coupled to the skull, so we get a very accurate representation of what the head is experiencing,” said Ray Rhodes, one of i1Biometrics’ founders responsible for product development.

A driver in a black suit offers a bottle of water to a female passenger in the backseat
Photo courtesy Didi Chuxing

In China, where traffic is notoriously bad, Microsoft Office 365 is helping to ease transportation woes with China’s largest ride-hailing service, Didi Chuxing. The companies have collaborated on an innovative new add-in for Outlook, in which users can easily arrange for business rides with a mouse click or tap on their Outlook email screen.

“Office 365 is the leading and open platform supported by all the mainstream operating systems and devices, and the add-in is easy to integrate,” said Derek Du, vice president of Didi Chuxing and general manager of DiDi Enterprise.

Steven Goulet, in a blue shirt, stands next to someone in front of a computer, with many colorful screens in the background
Steven Goulet, Azure Media Services principal program manager, helps NBC Olympics deliver the Rio Olympics to the U.S.

New Olympics record: This week, NBC Sports Group announced that its streaming of the Rio 2016 Summer Games reached a record 3.3 billion total minutes, setting a “new standard for event coverage.” NBC Olympics used Microsoft Azure as part of its streaming coverage, two years after it used the cloud service for streaming the Sochi 2014 Winter Games.

“Rio 2016 shattered streaming records in the sports category, with over 3 billion minutes streamed,” said Eric Black, CTO, digital, NBC Sports Group. “More than one-third of those who streamed the Games did so from connected TV devices. Our partnership with Microsoft Azure helped us extend our reach to more people and more devices via cloud streaming than ever before.”

The compact HP Pavilion Wave sits on a desk next next to a double monitor
The new HP Pavilion Wave

Over in Windows 10 hardware, there was a lot of shiny new things to ogle this week as computer manufacturers gathered in Berlin to introduce new models at IFA 2016, the world’s leading trade show for consumer electronics and home appliances. HP announced its new Pavilion Wave and Elite Slice. Lenovo showed off a sleek Yoga 910 convertible laptop and Miix 510 detachable device. And Acer’s new lineup included the Predator 21 X laptop with a curved screen for gaming.

Two avatars with shovels face off in the blocky world of "Minecraft"
The new mini game “Tumble” from “Minecraft”

New “Minecraft” thrills: Everyone’s favorite blocky sandbox game launched a new mini game called “Tumble,” in which you use shovels and snowballs to make your opponents fall into hot lava, while avoiding volcanic doom yourself.  “Minecraft” also offered a sneak peek at two new boss battles coming in this fall’s big update for “Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition” beta, “Pocket Edition” and the “Gear VR Edition.” You can look forward to new building blocks, a much-anticipated set of slash commands and battles with the powerful Wither and Elder Guardian bosses.

Katie Stone Perez sits on a wood bench with a wood-planked background as he looks through a large bubble in front of her face
Katie Stone Perez’ daughter blew this bubble while her mom sat for a photo.

And finally this week on the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, we highlighted Katie Stone Perez, a senior program manager on the ID@Xbox team at Microsoft. She utilizes her deep passion for gaming and psychology to understand how the two influence each other. Her mission is to bring fresh thinking and new voices to the world of gaming, making it a more inclusive and diverse community.

Thanks for reading and see you next week!

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