And Now, for Your Viewing Pleasure …

And Now, for Your Viewing Pleasure …

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Posted by Rob Knies

Image from Microsoft Research Video Library

Sometimes, it seems like we’re awash in video choices: broadcast, cable, satellite, Internet, PC, tablet, smartphone. It can seem overwhelming.

Sometimes—and stop me if you’ve heard this one before—it seems like, with all these choices, none of them is offering anything particularly compelling.

Don’t fret, though. Now, there’s a new, different offering for the discriminating sort: The Microsoft Research Video Library app.

Free from the Windows Store for any Windows 8 or Windows RT device, the app collects more than 4,000 videos accumulated over the past decade, presented in a rich, immersive experience and containing a unique set of lectures on science, computer science, education, and scholarly communication.

American Idol it’s not, but inquiring minds are sure to find something diverting. The videos available from the Microsoft Research Video Library feature noteworthy, often provocative work by leading researchers, academics, and scientists.

While the subjects of the videos pertain primarily to basic and applied research, those are hardly the only topics included. Contemporary culture is also on display, in the form of philosophy, literature, or art. Maybe you’d be interested in Howard Rheingold’s discussion about his book Net Smart: How to Thrive Online. How about Baratunde Thurston’s insights on How to Be Black? Maria (Where’d You Go, Bernadette) Semple anyone?

“The Microsoft Research Video Library puts an incredibly valuable wealth of knowledge—from the minds of writers, scientists, and academics from all over the globe and many walks of life—into the hands of many,” says Jennifer Henshaw, marketing and communications manager for Microsoft Research. “Using the beautiful touch interface of Windows 8, the library includes the fascinating Microsoft Research Visiting Speaker Series and hundreds of videos produced to showcase the research that plays such a seminal role in Microsoft products.”

Among the treats on display for users of the app are vital works from some of the foremost thinkers of recent times, such as the heralded Messenger Lectures, seven videos featuring lectures by renowned physicist Richard Feynman, delivered with humor and clarity at Cornell University in 1964 and still considered a landmark of exposition on core scientific concepts nearly half a century later.

“The Feynman Messenger Lectures are a treasure from science’s rich history,” says Frank Martinez, senior program manager for the Advanced Development Team at Microsoft Research Redmond. “We are fortunate to have access to these rare videos and to feature them in the app. Every time I watch any of those videos, I’m transported back in time to a place before smartphones or tablets, when great teachers like Richard Feynman had our undivided attention.”

The video collection accessible through the app presents an incredibly valuable resource for academics, researchers, scientists, and tech enthusiasts. It also makes use of a collection of key technologies from Microsoft and Microsoft Research, such as Bing Translator, the Windows Azure Content Delivery Network, and the Microsoft Media Platform.

The library’s home page is organized by pre-selected collections, and you can add videos to a “watchlist,” which can store videos you intend to view or those that have proved valuable.

The app offers a host of other useful features:

  • Users can browse through pre-selected video collections, or use the Search charm in Windows 8 to perform a keyword search through the entire collection.
  • You can view details about a particular video before beginning playback.
  • A video player, included with the app, offers the use of slides and transcripts, synced with the video. Users can choose their preferred layout options, which enable them to show or hide slides and transcripts. The latter also can be displayed as caption text.
  • Also included is an app bar that enables speed adjustment. The videos can be watched at regular speed, half-speed, 150 percent of regular speed, or at double speed. Smooth Streaming technology ensures that the videos play at the best quality possible for the user’s connection speed.
  • The app bar also enables the use of a video queue and transcript translation, using Bing Translator, for those videos that have transcripts.

“We used Bing Translator’s API in the app to give users an easy way to switch languages for the video transcripts,” Martinez says. “It’s surprisingly fluid. Selecting a language doesn’t interrupt the video you’re watching. You can even translate into Klingon!”

Sound “too good to be true”? It isn’t. It’s simply true—and now available.

“The translation features and the ability to see the written transcript while watching the videos,” Henshaw says, “all set in a computing environment that is easy on the eyes, makes this an app worth having on your Windows 8 devices.

“Plus, it’s free!”

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  • Work hard, but it is a great technology, especially for people with disabilities