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Posted by Rob Knies
Eight sentences. That’s all it took for Rick Rashid, worldwide head of Microsoft Research, to electrify a crowd of 2,000 students and faculty members in Tianjin, China, on Oct. 25 during the 14th annual Computing in the 21st Century Conference.Why did those in attendance respond so rapturously for the conclusion of Rashid’s keynote? The answer was simple: He was speaking in English, but the largely Chinese audience was hearing his voice in Chinese.Behind the scenes, a combination of powerful technologies was at work to bring the moment to life. One, by researchers at Microsoft Research and the University of Toronto, uses a technique patterned after the way people’s brains work, called Deep Neural Networks, which allows for speech recognition significantly more accurate than previous techniques. Another, by Microsoft Research, efficiently maps a person’s voice to another language. When these were combined with the engine behind Bing translator, the conference audience witnessed a dramatic new breakthrough.
If you’re a software developer—or if you follow the work of software developers—you’ve probably heard of TouchDevelop, a Microsoft Research app that enables you to write code for your phone using scripts on your phone. Its ability to bring the excitement of programming to Windows Phone 7 has reaped lots of enthusiasm from the development community over the past year or so.Now, the team behind TouchDevelop has taken things a step further, with a web app that can work on any Windows 8 device with a touchscreen. You can write Windows Store apps simply by tapping on the screen of your device. The web app also works with a keyboard and mouse, but the touchscreen capability means that the keyboard is not required.This reimplementation of TouchDevelop went live just in time for Build, Microsoft’s annual conference that helps developers learn how to take advantage of Windows 8. The conference is being held Oct. 30-Nov. 2 in Redmond, Wash.