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Windows on Theory
Posted by Rob Knies
Imagine that you carry a small device that can make any nearby surface interactive—and that those surfaces can be manipulated via multitouch gestures and can store data.“Wouldn’t that be cool?”The enthusiasm belongs to David Molyneaux, and he is one of several Microsoft Research Cambridge researchers striving to bring this fanciful vision to reality, using interactive, environmentally aware projector systems embedded in handheld devices.“In the future,” Molyneaux predicts, “we will all have devices we carry around—maybe projectors integrated into mobile phones—that enable us to augment arbitrary surfaces and objects with digital content and relevant information. We will live in a 3-D ‘information space’ where objects, surfaces, and devices around us in the home or office can generate digital information or have it attached. These mobile devices will reveal this information and enable interaction with the information directly.”
First, there was Kinect. You’ve probably heard of that one. Next, it was KinectFusion, which uses live data from Kinect for Windows to create high-quality, 3-D models of a room and its contents. KinectFusion made a splash in 2011 during the 38th International Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques (SIGGRAPH).Now, it’s time for KinÊtre, the latest Microsoft Research project that uses a Kinect depth camera to provide novel functionality: Among other animations, it can make chairs dance.No, your eyes didn’t deceive: dancing chairs. If that sounds like fun, you’ve come to the right place.KinÊtre, which can animate all sorts of inanimate objects, will be presented as a talk by Jiawen Chen during SIGGRAPH 2012, being held at the Los Angeles Convention Center from Aug. 5 to 9.
A recent study by the Pew Research Center indicates that 80 percent of adults in the United States have searched for medical information online. Such a figure underscores the fundamental importance that humans place on their health and wellbeing—and their reliance on the web for health information. Microsoft researchers, however, have studied challenges with the use of the web for performing diagnosis and have pursued an understanding about why searches about common symptoms can escalate quickly into users focusing their attention on rare, serious conditions.It’s called cyberchondria—making the leap from prosaic symptoms that could be explained in a multitude of ways to potential ailments more worrisome or debilitating.
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.
I can’t read Japanese. I know it when I see it, but what I see is merely a succession of word symbols, indecipherable to my untrained eye. No matter, though, because these days, the Microsoft Translator service enables quick translations from Japanese to English, as easy as copy, paste, and click. I might not be able to read Japanese, but I have a tool at my disposal that enables me to understand documents written in that language.I can’t read the Nepali language either. But that language is not used by nearly as many people as Japanese, and, therefore, it doesn’t rank high on the list of languages to be added to translation tools. When it comes to understanding Nepali documents, I’m out of luck.That, however, could change with the commercial availability of the Microsoft Translator Hub, announced in Toronto on July 11 during the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference. Now, businesses and communities have the ability to build, train, and deploy customized or built-from-scratch automatic language-translation systems. Those systems could be used to translate languages such as Nepali--or to apply to specialized domains with unique, specific terminology, such as health care, the legal profession, or technology.