Advancing artificial intelligence, transforming retail and creating a musical VR experience from the desert: Weekend Reading — Jan. 20

| Vanessa Ho

The new year is in full swing, and so was Microsoft this week, with transformative work in artificial intelligence, retail, music, virtual reality and social good.

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Microsoft advanced its artificial intelligence efforts with plans to acquire Montreal-based Maluuba, one of the world’s most impressive, deep-learning research labs for natural language understanding. Microsoft announced it will double the size of the lab in the next two years and give $6 million toward AI research to two Montreal universities.

The announcements continue the ambitions of Microsoft to democratize artificial intelligence (AI) and leverage its potential to transform industries and humanity.

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If you didn’t trek out to Joshua Tree, California, for the three-day concert event last year that launched Childish Gambino’s latest album, “Awaken My Love,” you’re in luck: A new virtual reality experience can take you there.

The event, dubbed “PHAROS,” is a collaboration with Microsoft that works with any mobile phone and some virtual reality (VR) headsets. Childish Gambino, the musical alter-ego of Donald Glover, debuted a 360-degree video of “Me and Your Mama” in December as a preview of the full, immersive experience available to fans who buy a special vinyl edition of his new album.

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Microsoft was in New York City this week for the National Retail Federation’s annual Big Show, where it unveiled the latest innovations transforming the shopping experience. They include store-scanning robots, mobile apps, intelligent vending machines, smart shelves and Microsoft Dynamics 365 solutions, which enable retailers and brands to thrive in a competitive environment.

The Microsoft Transform blog also highlighted retail innovation with a story that asks, “Is tech the new black?” The story features Italian startup ELSE Corp., which uses artificial intelligence, virtual reality and a platform powered by Microsoft Azure to make brick-and-mortar shopping fashionable again.

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Know any tech-savvy young people? Encourage them to apply for Microsoft’s new Council for Digital Good, a one-year pilot program for American youths, ages 13 to 17, to help lay the groundwork for safe, healthy and fun online interactions. The deadline for submissions is March 1.

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In app news, the third-person shooter game “Gigantic” got a new, fluffy hero named Pakko, and History Channel’s series “Six,” inspired by Navy SEAL Team Six missions, became available in the Windows Store.

Finally, this week on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Microsoft featured Ellen Van Dusen, a fashion designer with a background in neuroscience and visual systems. With an interest in how the brain reacts to movement and color, Van Dusen experimented with Surface and designed an interactive book that tests the impact of color and pattern on eyes, challenging the way your brain sees color.

Ellen Van Dusen

Thanks for reading and see you next week!

Vanessa Ho
Microsoft News Center Staff

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