Empowering education, teaching systems to read and saving lives with snake bots — Weekend Reading: May 5 edition

| Vanessa Ho

The ability of Microsoft technology to empower students, teachers, cities, industries and even safety-minded snake robots was on great display this week. Here are the highlights.

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Microsoft announced new innovations in education, including a Windows experience called Windows 10 S, modern classroom collaboration in Microsoft Teams, creativity features in “Minecraft” and mixed reality, and the Surface Laptop, a perfect Windows 10 S device for college students.

“We believe technology can inspire creativity in today’s classrooms, where the makers of tomorrow reside,” wrote Terry Myerson, Microsoft executive vice president, Windows and Devices Group.

Myerson introduced the new educational products and services at the #MicrosoftEDU Event in New York City, where Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella also spoke.

Microsoft machine reading team
From left, Rangan Majumder, Yi‐Min Wang and Jianfeng Gao in Redmond, Washington, are among people at Microsoft working on machine reading. Photo by Dan DeLong.

Microsoft’s leading AI experts are working on machine reading systems that can read passages of text and answer questions about them. The complex technology has the potential to advance search engines and help many people, including doctors, lawyers and other experts, by saving time on searches of documents for very specific items.

We’re trying to develop what we call a literate machine: A machine that can read text, understand text and then learn how to communicate, whether it’s written or orally,” said Kaheer Suleman, co-founder of Maluuba, a Quebec-based deep learning startup that Microsoft acquired this year. The team is one of several groups at Microsoft tackling the challenge of machine reading.

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The topic of artificial intelligence kicked off the new “Explanimators” series from Microsoft Story Labs with an easy-to-understand guide on the world of AI. The animated video series will dive into important, cutting-edge areas of technology and help people without engineering or computer science backgrounds understand them.

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Snakes saving humans? Sure, if they’re the Guardian S snake bots from Sarcos Robotics. The cloud-connected, camera-equipped and sensor-packed devices can crawl into such dangerous places as ship cargo holds, haz-mat spills and police standoffs — so human operators can see images, video and data on heat, leaks, structural damage and toxic fumes from a safe distance away.

Embedded with Windows 10 and integrated with the Microsoft Azure IoT Suite, the Guardian S will eventually be able to examine large amounts of data and predict structural problems, thanks to machine learning.


Toni Townes-Whitley, Microsoft corporate vice president of Worldwide Public Sector and Industry, spoke at Smart Cities NYC ’17, an event that explored technology and urban life. In her keynote about digital leadership and “empowerment by design,” Townes-Whitley announced the new Smart Cities for All Toolkit, a cross-industry effort to help city leaders create more inclusive communities and close the digital divide for people with disabilities and older people.

“Through digital leadership, we have the opportunity and obligation to create empowered cities with technology solutions that are trusted, responsible, innovative and inclusive,” Townes-Whitley wrote.

Aphalina Designer
Aphalina Designer

In app news, in-app purchases for vector drawing tool Aphalina Designer are on sale in the Windows Store through Friday, May 5. And “Resident Evil 7 biohazard” is on sale in the Windows Store through May 9 for your dose of creepy thrills.

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading and see you next week!

Vanessa Ho
Microsoft News Center Staff


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