January 2015

CNN’s “Inside Man” returns with spotlight on AI innovations by Microsoft and local innovators

Morgan Spurlock’s documentary series “Inside Man” returned to CNN on Thursday with an episode featuring the latest developments in robotics and artificial intelligence technology. In one segment, New York-based Spurlock traveled out to Microsoft Research in Redmond, Wash., to learn about AI systems that can understand and respond accurately to speech and physical context. Upon his arrival in the building, a smart elevator opened to take Spurlock to the right floor, and various virtual assistants pointed him to Eric Horvitz’s office for a demonstration of responsive technologies that use machine learning and natural interfaces to help people interact more easily — both with technology and with other humans — as well as be more productive

The episode also showcased the New York offices of Chicago-based Narrative Science, which helped Spurlock use its AI platform, Quill, to create a bio for his website. Spurlock was rightly impressed by the sophistication and accuracy of the computer-generated text. The episode included demonstrations of robotic technology and self-driving cars, offering an engaging and thought-provoking view of the future — and present — of artificial intelligence.

Check out the show On Demand or on CNN Go.

CNN’s “Inside Man” returns with spotlight on AI innovations by Microsoft and local innovators

Recap: Civic Hall Grand Opening

Last week, we had the pleasure of attending the opening of Civic Hall, New York’s new civic tech and innovation hub. Civic Hall is totally open to the public—inviting anyone interested in making the world a better place through technology and social innovation through its doors.

Recap: Civic Hall Grand Opening

On opening night, they welcomed more than 20 guest speakers showing how Civic Hall can transform Silicon Alley, bringing technology to the forefront of New York City as a whole and utilizing civic tech to solve urban challenges.

We’re looking forward to all of the innovative programs and solutions coming out of Civic Hall.

Here are some of the best tweets of the night:


TEALS applications open for the 2015-16 school year


TEALS volunteers Robert and Tony assist their AP computer science students at Hazen High School.

The U.S. is facing a shortage of computer science (CS) graduates. By 2018, there will be 1.5 million CS-related jobs available in the U.S. and only 29% of college graduates to fill them; that means approximately 80,000 jobs requiring a CS degree go unfilled by domestic candidates each and every year.

TEALS (Technology Education And Literacy in Schools), a volunteer network of high technology professionals, aims to help solve this deficit by helping schools grow a sustainable computer science program.

The application process is now open for high schools that want to partner with TEALS for the 2015-16 school year. The deadline for all applications is January 26, 2015. Click here for more information.

Microsoft showcases the leading edge of retail technology in New York this week


At the National Retail Federation Annual Convention today in New York City, Microsoft made announcements with GameStop, Hardee’s, TGI Friday’s, Panasonic, HP and FreedomPay, and NCR on efforts to modernize shopping experiences. | via Microsoft Business Matters.

The next time you find yourself at a cash-only restaurant, or in front of an empty store shelf, think about how it could be: Retail stores that use big data to accurately predict demand and set inventory levels. Restaurant servers who can place your order, customize items and process payment on a single handheld device. Loyalty programs that send you discounts and exclusive offers when you’re walking by a store location. It may all sound futuristic, but Microsoft technology is helping to create these experiences today, and it’s all on display at the Javits Center this week at the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Annual Convention & EXPO.

New York is a shopping mecca, so it’s fitting that the most exciting new advances in retail technology would be shown off here. Microsoft is appearing at the show with retailers, suppliers and technology partners who are showcasing everything from handheld point-of-sale devices to cloud-based systems that enable deep analysis of customer purchasing behavior. Tracy Issel, general manager of the Retail Sector at Microsoft, offers more detail about the solutions and customers being featured at the event in a new blog, Microsoft Business Matters. If you’re at the show, visit Microsoft in booth #2803 in the EXPO hall to see what the future — and the present — of retail could really be.

TEDxAlbany: Activism Drives Attention Drives Aid

I was grateful to be able to share a chapter of my thesis on Participatory Aid at TEDxAlbany last month. The video’s online now. Thanks to Lisa Barone and the OverIt team for inviting me and doing such a great job producing the event. Thanks also to Ethan Zuckerman and everyone at MIT Center for Civic Media for connecting me to these ideas in the first place.

It’s been an extremely violent year. What makes a crisis worthy of our attention? It turns out that human suffering does not predict media coverage. How closely is disaster aid correlated to receiving public attention? And, if we’re newly able to use our networks creatively to drive attention, can our active participation improve these formulas?

This Month in Civic Tech

This Month in Civic Tech

Welcome to 2015. Let’s kick off the year! As always, let us know if we’ve missed any great NYC civic tech events.

January 6th: New York Tech Meetup
January 12th: NYC Open Data‘s Python Machine Learning class demos their projects
January 13th: GeoNYC Monthly Meetup
January 14th: BetaNYC Civic Hack Night (Manhattan)
January 20th: We are thrilled to help kick off the Grand Opening of Civic Hall. In addition to being neighbors, we’re thrilled to support what is quickly becoming the home of civic tech. In addition to celebrating the opening, you should also apply to become a member at the tier that best fits your needs.

Video: NYC’s first Chief Technology Officer Minerva Tantoco

We were recently lucky enough to host NYC’s first-ever CTO, Minerva Tantoco (@minervatweet), in conversation with BetaNYC‘s Noel Hidalgo. The civic tech community showed up strong to the sold-out event at Microsoft Research. In the video below, Minerva shares her personal path to becoming Chief Technology Officer, as well as her personal thoughts on punk culture, science fiction, and her plans for keeping New York City on the cutting edge of civic tech. We were able to capture the conversation for your viewing pleasure thanks to Joly MacFie of the Internet Society’s New York chapter.

About Microsoft’s Civic Technology Engagement Group

Who We Are

The Microsoft Civic Technology Engagement Group works with local and national partners to help communities and governments leverage technology to tackle key societal challenges and make a sustainable and scalable impact on the lives of individuals.

Across the country and around the world, cities and counties are thinking about the intersection of technology, programs and policy in ways that are creative, solution-oriented and highly impactful. The results have been exciting and encouraging. At Microsoft, we believe that through cross-sector partnerships, many more breakthroughs are right around the corner – and we want to be an active partner in making these things happen.

Our goals include:

  • Facilitate technology for civic priorities
  • Foster civic innovation, entrepreneurship and economic growth
  • Create opportunity and access for all
  • Enable collaboration and discussion within communities
  • Build smart and sustainable cities

Who We Work With

We work with civic leaders and the communities they serve to convene discussions, inform design, and build approaches that embrace the use of technology both for and by the people to improve our lives and our government. Projects touch on issues in transportation, economic development and innovation, sustainability and resiliency, public safety and justice, education, opportunity and equity, and accessibility.

Where We Work

We have teams based in seven cities: Boston, Chicago, Detroit, New York, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle, and we work with organizations across the U.S. on projects of local, regional, and national impact.

Follow Us

More information about our work is available via our locally focused blogs and social media channels:

Our Partners