Category Archives: Windows Blog

Windows Blog

Calling all gamers: Here’s your go-to buying guide for gaming PCs this holiday

Maybe you’re thinking about purchasing a new gaming laptop this holiday but are overwhelmed by the variety of options to choose from. When shopping for new hardware, gamers often look for devices and specifications that fit their specific needs, and no two devices are the same. Whether you’re an experienced gamer or someone looking to dive into gaming for the first time, Windows 10 PCs offer something for all gamers this holiday.
This has been an exciting year for PC gaming, with new game features in the Windows 10 Creators Update and Windows 10 Fall Creators Update that support gaming for all creators alike. Not to mention acclaimed, recently released titles such as Forza Motorsport 7 and Cuphead with even more to come in 2018 like Age of Empires: Definitive Edition and Sea of Thieves.
With its built-for-gaming features, Windows 10 is the best version of Windows for gaming. Simple, built-in Mixer streaming provides exclusive near real-time, interactive moments for viewers and streamers to watch or interact with other gamers–no extra hardware required, while Xbox Play Anywhere enables you to buy a game once and play it on both your Xbox One and Windows 10 PC, including cloud save and resume. Game Mode enables gamers to dedicate more system resources to games, delivering a more performant gaming experience on Windows 10.
Let’s take a look at some Windows 10 gaming PCs from our partners that will light up gaming for everyone this holiday.
For the casual gamer looking for a PC they can not only game on, but also feel productive with Windows 10 features that may include Windows Hello, Cortana, and more, take a look at these casual gaming PCs under $1,000:
ASUS VivoBook S510UA 15.6-inch
ASUS VivoBook S510UA 15.6-inch
Acer Aspire E5-575T-3678
Acer Aspire E5-575T-3678
Dell Inspiron 15 7000
Dell Inspiron 15 7000
HP OMEN Laptop – 17t
HP OMEN Laptop – 17t
Looking for something with a little more power? A PC with faster computing and graphical expertise, maybe even a device light enough to take with you anywhere? Check out the below premium PCs:
ASUS ROG Strix GL503
ASUS ROG Strix GL503
Origin EON17-SLX 17
Origin EON17-SLX 17
Lenovo Legion Y720 Laptop
Lenovo Legion Y720 Laptop
Acer Nitro 5 Spin
Acer Nitro 5 Spin
For hardcore gamers who seek superior specs like 4K displays, powerful CPUs, high-end graphics cards, and more, we’ve got you covered! Here are a few top-of-the-line gaming rig suggestions to consider:
ASUS ROG Zephyrus
ASUS ROG Zephyrus
HP Omen X
HP Omen X
Dell Alienware 17 R4
Dell Alienware 17 R4
Razer Blade Pro
Razer Blade Pro
Acer Predator 21X
Acer Predator 21X
We’re excited about the innovation each partner brings to the Windows ecosystem, and these beautifully designed, feature-rich devices truly bring gaming to life. This holiday, experience the best Windows 10 has to offer with these powerful Windows 10 gaming PCs from our partners.

Calling all gamers: Here’s your go-to buying guide for gaming PCs this holiday
Tweet This

Windows 10 Pro for Workstations: Power through advanced workloads

In the new world of work, advanced professions increasingly require high-performance computing capabilities. We’re working to ensure Windows meets your needs, even in demanding and mission-critical scenarios, which is why we announced Windows 10 Pro for Workstations in August.
For data scientists transforming big data into input signals and experimenting with multiple machine learning models, processing time equals productivity. The same is true for researchers, engineers, and teams focused on predictive modeling. Content creation roles such as media professionals and graphic designers generate — and need to preserve — an enormous amount of data and intellectual property through their work.
Enter Windows 10 Pro for Workstations. With these devices, you can power through advanced workloads with server-grade data protection & performance.
These are revolutionary performance gains for desktop machines. With these new workstations, you’ll benefit from greater speed with faster processing & file transfers, greater resilience with server-grade storage, and you’ll enjoy the full power of high-performance hardware configurations.
Let’s look at the key benefits of Windows 10 Pro for Workstations:

Speed through demanding workloads & file transfers
Windows 10 Pro for Workstations supports devices with persistent memory1 (aka non-volatile memory, or NVDIMM-N) so you can speed through advanced workloads with the fastest data storage possible on workstations. In addition, persistent memory keeps your files at hand in the event of a system power loss.
You’ll also save valuable time on file transfers between Server and PC with SMB Direct2, a Microsoft solution for network adapters with Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) capability. This technology uses RDMA capable network adapters to utilize the full throughput of high-speed networks, transferring data at line speeds. It also provides very low-latency network requests, making remote storage perform like local storage. Finally, it significantly reduces CPU utilization, so you have more computing power available to run other applications such as Autodesk AutoCAD or Adobe Creative Suite.

Work confidently with server-grade data protection on your workstation
In addition to speed, you also get server-grade data protection on your workstation – a very new and highly valuable feature for anyone working with large volumes of data, including intellectual property that needs to be preserved over time.
Windows 10 Pro for Workstations combines Microsoft’s Resilient File System (ReFS) with Storage Spaces to provide highly resilient storage for large volumes of data so you can rest assured your data is automatically backed up to multiple mirrored drives. In addition, ReFS detects when data becomes corrupt on one of the mirrored drives, and then repairs data across your drives to ensure you’re working with clean data.

Feel the power of high-performance workstations
With Windows 10 Pro for Workstations, you can select high-performance configurations with up to 4 CPUs (previously limited to 2 CPUs) and add massive memory up to 6TB (previously limited to 2TB), and it is required for server-grade Intel Xeon or AMD Opteron processors. We’ve also rolled the workstation capabilities into Windows 10 Enterprise (see diagram below).
These machines provide an enormous amount of power to run advanced workloads, with compute cycles left free so you can run other apps simultaneously.

Upgrade to Windows 10 Pro for Workstations now!
You can purchase outstanding workstation devices running Windows 10 Pro for Workstations such as Dell’s new Precision 5520 or Precision 7920 Tower. We’ll be adding more new workstations to this list as they become available, so check back often. If you’re interested in upgrading your current device3 to Windows 10 Pro for Workstations, follow these steps.
Thank you to our customers and Windows Insiders for your input and feedback. We look forward to continuing to hear from you!
1 Persistent memory requires NVDIMM-N compatible hardware, ADR-enabled chipset and compliant UEFI.2 SMB Direct requires RDMA capable network adapters on both endpoints of the connection: client/device and server.3 The minimum hardware requirements for Windows 10 Pro for Workstations are the same as Windows 10 Pro.

This Week on Windows: News from Samsung, Mixer and more

We hope you enjoyed this week’s episode of This Week on Windows! You can visit this blog post to learn more about Always Connected PCs, visit this post to learn more about Microsoft Edge on iOS and Android, and read more about the artists bringing their visions to life in mixed reality. You can check out our Windows 10 Tip on what’s new in Skype for Windows 10 PCs – or, keep reading for more of this week’s news!
In case you missed it:
New Mixer app available now

Exciting news from the Mixer Blog today! Just months ago, Mixer announced they we were rebuilding the Mixer app for Android and iOS. Since then and with the help of the community, they’ve built the best version of the app to-date, and are excited to announce it’s available for download today on Android and in the coming days on iOS. To learn more about this news from Mixer, head over to their blog.
Samsung announces new Notebook 9 and Notebook 9 Pen with Windows 10
This week, Samsung announced the new Samsung Notebook 9 Pen and three new versions of the Samsung Notebook 9 (2018), offering a mobile computing experience that matches how people are using their PCs: whether at work, on the go and everything in between.

Samsung Notebook 9 Pen: Superb flexibility, portability with S Pen and convertible hinge
The Notebook 9 Pen brings a thoughtfully refined design to the 2-in-1 PC. Its full metal chassis with a premium magnesium aluminum alloy called Metal12 provides durability while keeping it super light at 2.2 pounds. The 360-degree hinge provides flexibility to convert to a tablet from a laptop with ease by rotating the keyboard behind the screen for convenience. The Notebook 9 Pen has a built-in, refined S Pen that gives you the freedom to doodle, write, sketch, paint and more with Windows Ink. The S Pen is battery-free, built into the device and designed for immediate use.
Samsung Notebook 9 (2018): Powerful design, yet lightweight and thin
With three different versions offering a 13.3” to a 15” screen and enhanced graphics capabilities, the Notebook 9 (2018) weighs up to only 2.84 pounds and measures 15.4mm. The bezel around the screen measures 6.2mm providing a more immersive experience. This means great portability without sacrificing screen size, as well as a stronger, more durable metal body featuring Metal12. The device also provides always-on power thanks to the 75Wh Hexacell battery.
Availability: The Samsung Notebook 9 Pen and Notebook 9 (2018) will be available in select countries starting in December 2017 in Korea, and in the first quarter of 2018 in the U.S. Both the Notebook 9 Pen and Notebook 9 (2018) will be displayed at CES 2018 in Las Vegas, NV. To learn more visit Samsung’s newsroom.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds now available on Xbox One

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is available now as a console launch exclusive on Xbox One! Since we first announced PUBG would be coming to Xbox at E3 2017, it’s been amazing to see the excitement and anticipation fans have shared and on behalf of everyone at PUBG Corp., we want to thank you for your support.
PUBG is a battle royale-style game which puts up to 100 players on the remote island of Erangel for a winner-takes-all showdown. Each game starts the same – you jump out of an airplane over an island, look for a safe (or dangerous) place to land, scramble for armor, weapons and health kits, and try to stay alive as the safe zone becomes smaller and smaller, forcing players to keep moving to survive.
We chose to bring PUBG to console on Xbox One in the Xbox Game Preview program, as it’s the only console platform that gives us the opportunity to partner with the community and build the game together, much like we did with the PC version. The experience you have in PUBG on Xbox One today will be somewhat similar to what we shipped back in March on PC, but with a few updates. In addition, to support for third-person solo, duo, and squad gameplay on the current Erangel map, PUBG on Xbox One will also feature vaulting at its launch into the Xbox Game Preview program. On Xbox One X, the game will be enhanced to include HDR support and 4K resolution, with more details to come.  While in the Xbox Game Preview program, PUBG on Xbox One will continue to receive new content updates including the new desert map, “Miramar,” optimizations and more. Our goal is to unify the feature set and product roadmap of the PC and Xbox versions of the game as soon as possible.
Read more about the news over at Xbox Wire!

Here’s what’s new in Microsoft Store this week:
Adobe Photoshop Elements 2018 Sale

We take more pictures today than ever before, which means we need an efficient, easy way to organize, find and share them. Adobe Photoshop Elements 2018 ($69.99 Sale Price, $99.99 Regular Price) is here to help. Now on sale for 30% off through Jan. 6, Adobe PSE 2018 makes photo and video organization, editing, creating, and sharing as simple as it gets.
Dunkirk

Trapped on the beach and surrounded by enemy forces, 400,000 Allied soldiers face impossible odds in Christopher Nolan’s epic masterpiece Dunkirk ($29.99 HD). Don’t miss one of the best-reviewed films of the year, available in the Movies & TV section of the Microsoft Store one week before it comes to Blu-ray. Plus, for a limited time, purchase Dunkirk and get a free game add-on for World of Tanks! For full details, visit: aka.ms/Dunkirk.
Have a great week!

AI in Photos makes it easy to find and create the perfect holiday photo or video

It’s December…time for the annual holiday photo! If you’re like most people, you have a very large collection of photos to choose from. Good news because with the help of artificial intelligence features, in the reimagined Photos application, available with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, we’re making it easier to find that perfect photo or video and make the most of your memories, just in time for the holidays!
Search all your photos or videos with AI
With the help of AI, we’ve also introduced an easy way to search by person, place, or thing. Simply click on the search bar and images of people* from your collection appear, making it easy to click on the person you’re looking for. You’ll also see places and things that are already in your collection. If you know what you’re looking for, a photo from the playground, a video captured at Disneyland, or last year’s picture with Santa, just type those things into the search box and the automatically tagged photos will come up in your search. That’s right, the best part is, it’s all done for you through automatic intelligent tagging, no work needed on your end.

AI-powered video creation
Ready to take your photo up a notch and turn it into a video creation? With the video creation tools in the new Photos app, we’ve got you covered, no video editing skills required! Using AI, the Photos app will automatically bring together your memories into a video for great storytelling complete with soundtracks, themes, and transitions Keep the automatically generated video to enjoy and share, or easily remix it with just the click of a button for an all-new look and feel of the video, complete with a new soundtrack and transitions. AI enables the app to understand what music and transitions align best with your photos or videos.

You can even ink on and add 3D effects to moving objects in your videos. Just draw and pin an arrow, circle, or another doodle, and it stays with the object while the video plays.

Share your photos with family and friends
Once you get your creation just right, you can easily export the file into the right format to share it with family and friends in a variety of ways including via email, online to your favorite social sites or tailor it for the big screen in a larger upload.

To start creating your own personal story, for any occasion, check out the new Photos app – included with Windows 10 – or head over here to read more about what’s new in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update – and for more on how AI is infused into other Microsoft experiences, check out the blog post from our  event in San Francisco where we showcased a number of advances that use artificial intelligence to help people get more nuanced information and assist with more complex needs.
*Face detection and recognition can be turned off via settings in the Photos app.

Announcing Babylon.js v3.1

Babylon.js is an open source framework that allows you to easily create stunning 3D experiences in your browser or your web apps.
Built with simplicity and performance in mind, it is the engine that fuels the Remix3D site, Xbox Design Lab or 3D objects preview in Teams or OneDrive on the web.
Earlier this year we announced the third version of the engine. Today I’m glad to announce its first update: Babylon.js v3.1.

The main goal of this version was to provide helpers to achieve high end tasks. Let’s see some of them:

Improving VR experiences with the VRExperienceHelper
Babylon.js v3.0 introduced support for WebVR and VR controllers (including Windows Mixed Reality, Oculus and HTC Vive). With 3.1 release, we wanted to make the process to add VR experience in your code simple.
Therefore, we introduced the VRExperienceHelper which will take care of the following for you:
Create the HTML button to enter VR mode
Create a WebVRCamera (if supported) and a DeviceOrientationCamera as a fallback (this camera will allow you to use device orientation events to control your scene. This is useful on mobiles for instance)
Add support for teleportation and rotation in the same way you can experience it in the Windows Mixed Reality cliff house
Add support for controllers picking (you can use your controllers to interact with the scene) and gaze picking (you can use your gaze to interact)
All of this will be available with literally 3 lines of code:

var VRHelper = scene.createDefaultVRExperience();
VRHelper.enableTeleportation({floorMeshName: "Sponza Floor"});

You can try it here: https://www.babylonjs-playground.com/frame.html#JA1ND3#15

We also added more WebVR demos on our homepage for you to try:

Building a 3D experience with 2 lines of HTML with Babylon.js Viewer
Babylon.js viewer is a new tool to allow you to integrate 3D into your web sites or web apps in a couple of seconds. Everything can be done directly from your web page:

<body>
<babylon model.title="Damaged Helmet"
model.subtitle="BabylonJS"
model.thumbnail="https://www.babylonjs.com/img/favicon/apple-icon-144×144.png"
model.url="https://www.babylonjs.com/Assets/DamagedHelmet/glTF/DamagedHelmet.gltf">
</babylon>
<script src="//viewer.babylonjs.com/viewer.js "></script>
</body>

With these two lines of HTML you can create a complete touch aware 3D viewer anywhere in your page.
http://viewer.babylonjs.com/basicexample
The viewer can be configured in all possible way either with HTML attributes, JavaScript code or even with DOM elements:

<babylon extends="minimal" scene.default-camera="false">
<model url="https://playground.babylonjs.com/scenes/BoomBox.glb" title="GLB Model" subtitle="BabylonJS">
</model>
<camera>
<behaviors>
<auto-rotate type="0"></auto-rotate>
</behaviors>
</camera>
<lights>
<light1 type="1" shadow-enabled="true" position.y="0.5" direction.y="-1" intensity="4.5">
<shadow-config use-blur-exponential-shadow-map="true" use-kernel-blur="true" blur-kernel="64" blur-scale="4">
</shadow-config>
</light1>
</lights>
</babylon>

All the user interface can be updated to reflect your brand and the configuration model can also be extended.
Please follow this link to our documentation to learn mode about the Babylon.js viewer: http://doc.babylonjs.com/extensions/the_babylon_viewer
Create your demo setup with a few lines of code thanks to the EnvironmentHelper
For non-3D experts, setting up a 3D environment (lights, skyboxes, etc.) could be tricky. Therefore, we added a tool named EnvironmentHelper and directly available on the scene to help you with this task.
Using it is straightforward:

var helper = scene.createDefaultEnvironment();
helper.setMainColor(BABYLON.Color3.Teal());

And you can then get a good-looking setup (skybox + ground) adapted to your scene:

The helper offers a lot of options like enabling reflections or shadows:

var helper = scene.createDefaultEnvironment({
enableGroundMirror: true,
groundShadowLevel: 0.6,
});

See a live version here: https://www.babylonjs-playground.com/#4AM01A
Helping the community with our glTF exporter for Autodesk 3dsmax
We introduced support for glTF 2.0 in Babylon.js 3.0 and we wanted to help our community to produce assets in this open standard format. This is the reason why we worked on adding support for glTF export in our Autodesk 3dsmax exporter.
You can now create your scene in 3dsmax and directly export it to glTF in one click:

More info here: http://doc.babylonjs.com/resources/3dsmax_to_gltf
From the client to the server: Introducing the NullEngine
Starting with Babylon.js v3.1, we introduced the NullEngine which is a version of the main Babylon.js engine but we no need for a WebGL capable device.
The NullEngine will obviously not produce any rendering and thus can be used in a node.js / server-side environment.
It can be used to:
Run tests
Run a server-side version of your application / game
Use specific Babylon.js services (like glTF loaders for instance)
More details can be found here: http://doc.babylonjs.com/features/nullengine
Improving the codebase
Babylon.js is entirely written in TypeScript. In order to improve the quality of the code we decided to turn on all strict type checking offered by the latest version of TypeScript (like the strict null check introduced by TypeScript 2.0 or the strict function types added by TypeScript 2.6).
With stricter type checking we can capture errors and bugs at compilation time and thus provide more reliable code for the community.
Improving documentation
Writing good documentation is a complex task. With this release we added more content for beginners. We now have complete course starting from scratch and going through all important aspects of the engine.

We also added several multi-steps guide so you can read and learn at your own pace.
If you want to know more or just want to experiment with our latest demo, please visit http://www.babylonjs.com/.
And if you want to join the community and contribute, please join us on GitHub!

Accelerate Windows 10 Migration with Windows Analytics

Windows Analytics accelerates enterprise Windows 10 migration. Traditionally, migrating to a new operating system while ensuring legacy applications and drivers are compatible has been a time-consuming and costly project for organizations. Windows Analytics transforms this process. With Update Compliance and Device Health services now generally available, Windows Analytics provides an end-to-end upgrade solution with actionable insights into device performance, reliability, and health, so enterprises can broadly migrate their devices from Windows 7 or Windows 8 to Windows 10 or update Windows 10 devices to the latest feature update (Windows 10, version 1709) quickly and with confidence.
End-to-end insights for Windows 10 adoption and deployment
Windows Analytics is a cloud based service that provides data driven insights, or analytics, about your devices, allowing you to detect problems, monitor device health, and remediate issues across the devices you administer. This suite of services makes upgrading to Windows 10 from legacy operating systems easier and streamlines keeping devices up-to-date and secure on Windows 10.
Upgrade Readiness uses diagnostic data to identify and resolve application and driver compatibility issues as you plan and manage the upgrade process. Once your devices are up-to-date on Windows 10, Upgrade Readiness becomes a key tool for your Windows servicing process, continually providing these insights, so you can test and deploy Windows 10 Semi-Annual Channel feature updates faster.
Update Compliance provides a unified view of Windows Update and Antivirus (AV) status of your Windows 10 devices to keep them secure and up-to-date, regardless of the management solution you use. Windows Update diagnostic data gives you immediate visibility into which of your devices are missing critical Windows security updates that help keep your devices secure and protected. It also assesses protection and threat status, and tracks deployment progress so you can troubleshoot issues as they arise.
Device Health is designed to help IT administrators monitor and proactively maintain devices. Device Health uses data to identify and report common device performance and reliability problems employees may experience so they can be resolved quickly and efficiently. By pinpointing disruptive issues like kernel crashes or third-party driver issues, Device Health data provides insight into the scope and scale of an issue, so you can focus on mitigation and remediation over investigation. Proactive monitoring of device health and performance saves you time and money by reducing support calls and improving employee productivity.
Windows Analytics provides the right insights for testing and deployment planning
Windows Analytics is currently being used by hundreds of customers on millions of devices, in over 200 countries. Companies like Independence Blue Cross are using Upgrade Readiness to plan, test and deploy Windows 10 on thousands of devices as part of their migration process. The Upgrade Readiness planning tool simplifies this process.
We often hear from customers that application compatibility is one of the biggest pain points on the enterprise upgrade path. A typical enterprise may have tens of thousands of devices and applications. Before any large-scale migration, IT administrators want to ensure their legacy applications will work. With so many apps, it is time-consuming to figure out which may have issues and how to prioritize those apps that require attention.
“Windows Upgrade Readiness helped us to quickly design a strategic approach for our Windows 10 deployment by allowing us to focus on applications that needed special attention while moving quickly to upgrade machines that were Windows 10 ready. It is also the driving force behind our Windows as a Service adoption strategy.” — Frank Trout, System Specialist, Independence Blue Cross
Upgrade Readiness collects system, application, and driver data for analysis. It then identifies compatibility issues that can block an upgrade and suggest fixes when they are known to Microsoft. Apps are automatically segmented and grouped for you, so you don’t have to review them one by one. You can see which apps are most widely used, which are supported by their software vendor, and which are considered low risk for compatibility problems. Based on this information, you’ll get suggestions on which apps to focus on, so you can start to resolve any blockers. This automated process is the same for evaluating driver compatibility, so you can fast-track upgrade readiness. As an IT admin, you have full transparency and control over the level of data gathered, so you can adjust the level or stop the flow at any time.

More tools to simplify upgrade readiness – Ready for Windows and Office 365 ProPlus solutions
Customers upgrading to Windows 10 want to know if a third-party product they use will work with the target version of Windows 10 before upgrading. To ensure a smooth upgrade process, we work closely with independent software vendors (ISVs), especially Antivirus (AV) and Security vendors, to provide customers with compatibility information on their most popular solutions on the Ready for Windows site. Third party application makers can formally assure customers that their verified software will run and be supported on Windows 10 by getting listed in the Ready for Windows directory.
Ready for Windows has also recently started collecting information from ISVs who are committed to supporting the Semi-Annual releases for Windows 10 (Always Up-to-Date), so organizations that are interested in keeping their employees’ devices up-to-date can more easily standardize on applications that will also be kept current on Windows 10.

Upgrade Readiness is not only about understanding the broad view of device readiness, it’s also about knowing which Office add-ins your employees depend on to make sure they are successful in their jobs. With diagnostic data as well as compatibility statements from Ready for Windows gathered from ISVs on Office 365 ProPlus solutions, you can easily check compatibility of the critical add-ins your employees rely upon every day. For even greater transparency and ease, Upgrade Readiness now pulls Office 365 ProPlus data into the apps view for your organization.

With Windows Analytics, you can feel confident to start testing and deploying Windows 10 sooner. You can begin pilot deployments of the latest feature update (Windows 10, 1709) using Upgrade Readiness to build confidence. Start by targeting and evaluating a small subset of your install base. We recommend using the application and device inventory data from the Upgrade Readiness service to select a set of devices that provide appropriate coverage. Then listen, monitor for issues, and remediate blockers. Once you are satisfied with the results of your pilot deployments, begin broadly deploying throughout your organization. This phased rollout follows what we do for consumers worldwide today.
Get Started with Windows Analytics today!
You can get started with Windows Analytics today by visiting our Windows for Business site. It’s free for enterprise E3 and E5 subscribers and Windows 10 Pro users. If you have questions about deploying and getting the most out of Windows Analytics in your organization, be sure to join our next Windows Analytics “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) session on Tuesday, January 16th, 2018.
I’ll continue to share more about new features and enhancements that support Windows Analytics in the coming months. We’d also like to hear how Windows Analytics is working for you by sending us comments or suggestions via the Feedback Hub app.

Watching in awe as artists bring their visions to life in mixed reality

I’ll never forget the first time I experienced mixed reality.
It was a pre-production version of Microsoft HoloLens, and I tried a demo that had fish swimming around the room, seaweed on the floor and bubbles floating around me.  Eventually, the demo team had to gently suggest I leave, because I was mesmerized.  The fish were bouncing off the walls. The bubbles were popping on the ceiling.  I could see everything in the room and the people in it, and I could see more – things that felt just as real.  I couldn’t get enough.
Part of me is still in that moment because it’s what has motivated me to work as hard as I can with teams across Microsoft to build the devices, platforms, experiences and services that will enable infinite mixed reality experiences.
Everyone working in mixed reality today is a pioneer as they push forward, defining boundaries of technology, design and user experience while reinventing industries, education and communication.
Today, I want to talk about one group of pioneers who are using mixed reality to change the way we see the world: artists.
 

Since the early days of HoloLens, we have had the chance to see what happens when artists use their unique ability to see the potential of a new medium or technology. I have always been passionate about paying attention to what artists are doing with new technology platforms.  Artists, whether visual artists, media, sculpture, dance, theater or others, have both courage and the ability to see things differently.
It has been amazing to see what has been created.
Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation Exhibit at Art Basel
Last week we kicked off a partnership with Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO) at Art Basel in Miami. Their exhibit, “Sandu Darie: An Immersive Experience,” aims to make important Cuban works of art accessible beyond the constraints of their physical location. The experience makes available public works of art that are permanently located in Cuba and brings them to life using Mixed Reality Viewer, Windows Mixed Reality headsets and HoloLens. For the first time outside of Cuba, visitors could view large-scale works of art in their real world through these two immersive experiences.
A photographer captures images of Cuban artist Sandu Darie’s El Día y La Noche (1982) in Havana that were used to digitally recreate the sculptural mural as a hologram
Case Western Reserve University mixed reality dance shared experience
Case Western Reserve University has truly been a pioneer in mixed reality. From the building of anatomy class experiences, to expanding to physics classes, and more recently exploring the arts with the British Museum and others, the team at Case has been leading from the edge.
I recently had the opportunity to have another once-in-a-lifetime experience: the first-ever, large-scale shared mixed reality dance performance. Eighty people all wore HoloLens to see dancers and holograms in the same performance, for the first time.  The team had no idea how to pull this off when it was conceived by the Creative Director, XX, but that’s why we’re in this space: to bring things that seem impossible into focus, and then to just figure out how to do them.
Take a look at their blog post and video to learn more about how the vision ultimately came to life.
Cornish College of the Arts
I spent two years in early HoloLens development saying, “Imagine when you go to the first holographic art gallery opening.  There will be wine and cheese, maybe some light music, but no art.  You walk in and see empty walls, empty stands. But then you put on HoloLens and the gallery is full of rich art.”
I would marvel over this with other people.
Well, this has happened, and much earlier than I expected.
Cornish College of the Arts pioneered the first exhibit in 2016, called “Through the HoloLens,” which allows students to bring to life their artistic expression in new ways through painting, dance, performance and other forms. I was fortunate to experience this firsthand with the students of Cornish, a moment I will never forget.
Gallery goers check out students’ holographic works at the Cornish College of the Arts 2016 BFA show
Artsy at the Armory
Earlier this year we partnered with online art platform Artsy and Amsterdam-based Studio Drift to create a mixed reality art installation at The Armory Show in New York.  The project was called “Concrete Storm” and was our first collaboration in a commercial art context.  It blended physical structures with holograms, which changed perspective depending on where you stood within the exhibit, allowing visitors to experience art in an entirely new way. It was fascinating to watch the typically jaded New York art crowd’s expressions the first time they put the device on; lighting up as they walked through the concrete pillars and reaching out to touch something that wasn’t really there. Proof that mixed reality can make art more accessible and interactive when it comes alive, up close and personal.
Studio Drift founders Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta view their original HoloLens work, Concrete Drift (2017), at The Armory Show in New York
I’d like to thank all working artists for your commitment to your craft and work.  And for those of you who are deeply engaged with technology, thank you again.  Your work is so very important. As we get ready for the year ahead I am eager to see what comes next.
Lorraine

Windows 10 Tip: What’s new in Skype for Windows 10 PCs

Today, the new features we announced last month for the latest version of Skype for Windows 10 are beginning to roll out! Let’s take a look at what’s new.
Grab a cup of coffee and catch up on what you’ve missed by clicking the bell icon to access your notification panel.

From this central place, you’ll see reactions to your messages, @mentions in group conversations, or if someone quoted you. Jump to the conversation by clicking the message in the notification panel.
Looking for that link someone sent you a few weeks ago?

Quickly find shared content in the chat gallery. Just click Gallery to see media, links, and files. You can also now search for text in individual and group conversations.
If you’d like to get someone’s attention in a group chat, type the @ symbol followed by their name to send them a notification so that they can easily respond to the message.

Status updates are back, too, so you can let your colleagues, friends, and family know when you are and aren’t available to chat by changing your presence – or, set a mood message to share what’s going on.
 Share your mixed reality world 
 
If you have a compatible Windows 10 PC and a Windows Mixed Reality headset, you can now share your mixed reality world with Skype. As soon as you answer a Skype call via video, the view the other person sees will be your mixed reality world. They’ll see the game you’re playing, or the ruins you’re exploring in HoloTour, or the movie you’re watching in 3D. If you want to switch back to a traditional video call where the person sees you, you can go to settings in the Skype app and change the device to your PC’s camera.
To learn more about what’s new in Skype for Windows 10 PCs, visit the Skype Blog!

Making mixed reality: Meet the mind behind interactive film Free the Night

Created by Nicole McDonald and JauntVR, the full immersive app experience Free the Night is now available on Windows Mixed Reality. Read on to learn how its award-winning director made her childhood dream into a reality.
Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Nicole McDonald, creator of Windows Mixed Reality immersive app experience Free the Night. But while some might bill the app as an interactive film, it would be an understatement to call Nicole simply a filmmaker.
In the 15 years since she began creating in multimedia, Nicole has worn many hats – from that of game designer, to NASA collaborator, to marketing campaign manager for the world’s biggest names, including American Idol, Cirque Du Soleil, and Toyota.
Now, Nicole is channeling her wealth of creative energy towards a new endeavor: the art of storytelling in mixed reality. The latest in a list of interactive films she’s created – many of which have been featured in festivals such as Cannes, Sundance, and SXSW – Free the Night is a collaboration between Nicole and cinematic VR producer Jaunt Studios. Designed exclusively for Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality immersive headsets, the experience enables audiences to place stars back into the sky and watch them glitter and swirl as they reclaim the night.

In celebration of Free the Night’s full release last month, I sat down with Nicole to learn more about the initial spark behind her creation.
Nicole McDonald, director and creator of interactive film Free the Night.
What inspired you to create Free the Night?
Nicole: In general, I am deeply inspired by my memories of being a child and childhood.
Free the Night was inspired by the most vivid of these: staring up into the night sky with my family. My father loved the sky and his enthusiasm and wonder of it pulled us all in. He would point out the constellations, and we’d discuss what could be out “there.” We grew up in a teeny tiny town and the sky was magnificent: there were thousands of stars, hints of the milky way, and we once saw a little bit of the aurora.
But sadly, one year, a huge mall was constructed nearby and it washed out almost everything. The amber glow of the parking lot made it impossible to view from our front lawn. It was heartbreaking. I didn’t understand how, or why, someone could do that.
Fast forward to a few years ago, when I was watching a fireworks display and thought how amazing it would be to have the same sky that my father introduced to me as the backdrop. I wanted to “blow” out all the lights out around me and… voilà, Free the Night was born.

You come from a background in advertising, filmmaking, and gaming. What led you to mixed reality as the medium for this story?
Nicole: I’ve always been interested in the marriage of narrative and technology, in understanding how innovative tools can enhance traditional storytelling. Mixed reality, to me, is placing the audience physically in the narrative, where they can participate and be moved emotionally by a story. It’s such a wonderful time of exploration, and we now have an audience that is curious, if not craving, these new media and experiences.
The setting of Free the Night, inspired by the creator’s hometown.
What can audiences expect from Free the Night when they put on their headsets?
Nicole: In Free the Night, we become giants in a mountainous landscape, tasked with liberating the stars into the night sky. We need to be able to get low enough to the ground to extinguish the manmade lights of the city and reach high enough to place the stars back into the sky. This requires us to interact with the entire 360-degree virtual space, a range of freedom only afforded in mixed reality. With Windows Mixed Reality immersive headsets, our audience has the seamless tracking and full “six degrees of freedom” to actively engage in the narrative and explore all around them.
The story begins with the silhouette of a girl releasing lights back into the night sky.
You mentioned that Free the Night encourages us to use our full 360-degree space with “six degrees of freedom” (6DOF). Can you tell me more about 6DOF for those of us who may be unfamiliar with it, and why you chose to incorporate it in your design?
Nicole: 6DOF is the freedom of movement in 3D space. Six axes of movement allow us interact with objects that are as low as the ground and as high as we can lift our hands – left and right, back and forth… all around us.
With immersive mixed reality, there’s something so delightful about playing with scale and exploring a narrative in 3D space. It challenges us to have new perspective and see and play in ways we haven’t before.
Using motion controllers, audiences can swirl and play with the embers, freeing them into the night sky.
Free the Night has been tagged as both “cinematic” and “interactive” – two qualities that, in conjunction, set the experience apart from your typical film or game. What inspired you to experiment with mixing the two media?
Nicole: Honestly, it started when I was nine years old, in a basic computer coding class. We all worked on monochromatic monitors – the instructor explained that computers would someday show us more colors. Of course, he was describing monitors that would have RGB color profiles, but, at the time, I naively thought he meant that computers would allow us to see more colors than are in our current rainbow. My mind went wild. I made up stories of who and what lived in these unseen colors… What could they do that we couldn’t?
Ever since, I’ve been captivated by using technology as a creative tool. I always ask myself if my concepts allow my audience to see more “colors,” more worlds that we’d never see without the innovations of today. I love exploring how we might profit from experiencing and interacting with these kinds of stories and, most importantly, how can we add joy and wonder to our audience’s lives.
Once freed, the stars sparkle and burst in impressive displays.
Did you have an ideal audience in mind when you decided to create this experience?
Nicole: Ideally, Free the Night is for everyone. It’s a universal story for human beings, and because it’s for all, I especially wanted it to be an invitation to those who haven’t necessarily found their space, or connection with content, in mixed reality. People sometimes think that mixed reality is just for gaming or 360-degree passive experiences, but I want my projects to be all-embracing interactive experiences – experiences in which everyone is enticed to participate in, rather than be intimidated by, the medium.

What, for you, was most intimidating about creating Free the Night?
Nicole: One of the best and hardest parts of working on interactive experiences is the ice-cream headache you get when you have to find a solution but there is no playbook available. There are so many limitations and unknowns; as creators in this nascent space, we have to be a bit like MacGyver.
For Free the Night, it was how to create the magic of extinguishing light embers in mixed reality. Traditionally, you can only have a small amount of particles on screen at any given time in VR. But we needed thousands, which would have personality and be responsive when we interacted with them. My dev team, led by long-time collaborator KC Austin, figured out how to write a system with compute buffers that allowed the experience to sing.
More generally, the biggest challenge in creating with mixed reality is disrupting our preconceived notions of the medium. People are so often intimidated by the experience they’re about to enter, or nervous that they’re going to do something wrong. We’re so conditioned to approaching this medium as a game, rather than something more. My challenge is getting people to settle in the narrative instead of trying to get the highest score.
Future of StoryTelling attendees were among the first to demo the experience in October.
Free the Night recently debuted as a demo at the annual Future of StoryTelling Summit in New York. (Congratulations!) After months of working round-the-clock, what was it like finally seeing your demo premiere?
Nicole: It was pinch-worthy. We had had our heads down working for a few months, so to see the general public instilled with the awe for which I’d hoped was a dream come true.
My favorite response was that of a peer who tried Free the Night for the first time at the Summit. As she took off the headset, her eyes welled with tears. She told me how she had been transported to her own childhood and was filled with the same wonder I’d been way back when. It’s because of reactions like this that I can’t wait for everyone to experience the full project this month.
A woman reaches for the stars at The Future of StoryTelling demo.
If there’s one idea or impression you hope audiences take away from the full version of Free the Night, what would it be?
My hope is that people feel more connected to the world when their headsets comes off – that by experiencing Free the Night, they are enticed to look up a little bit more often – and that they truly understand that we are the magic and Earth is Eden.
One of many flower-shaped constellations awaiting audiences in the experience.
We’ve talked a lot about your journey in making this childhood dream into a reality. Looking back, what advice do you have for someone aspiring to create an immersive experience as aesthetic and emotionally inspiring as Free the Night?
Nicole: Oh, my… Well, first, for those who want to create in the space, it’s extremely difficult and thus can be extremely fortifying. Before you begin, ask yourself what you want your audience to feel or take away from the experience. Try to understand how the idea will blossom in the medium; take advantage of what you can do inside mixed reality that you can’t do in traditional linear 2D displays. Don’t be afraid of limitations; you can execute the essence of ideas in many ways. Always, always storyboard, create animatics, and test and play.
For those new to MR, please, don’t be intimidated. There is no right or wrong way to create an interactive experience. Get comfortable; look around at your environment before trying to rush through it. Approach everything with the wonderment you had as a child.
Free the Night promises 360 degrees of breathtaking scenes like the one above.
One last question, Nicole, before I let you go… Now that Free the Night is officially on Windows Mixed Reality, what’s next?
Nicole: Surfing and yoga… haha. But really, I’ll be working on the full experience for HUE, an interactive film about a man named Hue who has lost his ability to see color. In this touch-based tale, he is reactive to our presence and touch like a living breathing being. We help Hue find his “full spectrum” by aiding him to see the everyday joy around him and his own potential to be wonderful.
Concept art for Nicole’s next interactive film, “HUE.”
Thanks so much for taking the time to share your story, Nicole, and congratulations, again, on creating such a breathtaking experience. I can’t wait to try “Free the Night” again this week!
Free the Night is available from the Microsoft Store. Download it for free on your PC and plug in your headset to experience the magic of Windows Mixed Reality… and stay tuned for our next installment of Making mixed reality.

Building a great touchpad experience for the web with Pointer Events

Most web pages don’t fit on one screen, so good scrolling behavior is an integral part of a good web browser. It’s so crucial to the user experience that we have spent a lot of time optimizing page scrolling, with great results.
Since launching Microsoft Edge, we’ve optimized most scrolling experiences — scrolling via touchscreens, page and content scrollbars. One particular focus in previous releases has been improving touchpads, specifically precision touchpads (PTPs), to provide a smooth, fluid, intuitive experience by default.
In this post, we’re introducing a new optimization coming in EdgeHTML 17 to allow developers to customize scrolling behaviors and gestures with Precision Touch Pads, without impacting scrolling performance: PTP Pointer Events.
Background
Precision touchpads are high-end touchpads that ship in Surface devices (Surface Pro 2 and later) and modern Windows 10 devices from our OEM partners. Windows 10 takes advantage of this hardware to enable system-wide gestures and better, more responsive scrolling than what was possible with older technology.
Microsoft Edge also utilizes PTPs to enable back/forward swipe and to enhance users’ scrolling experience via off-thread (aka independent) scrolling. Since PTP input is processed differently by the input stack in Windows 10, we wanted to ensure that we took advantage of this and that we gave users a scrolling experience that felt as natural as their experience with touchscreens everywhere on the web.
However, the web has traditionally had a bit of a design flaw when it comes to scrolling, in the form of scroll jank — that ‘glitchy’ feeling that the page is stuck, and not keeping up with your finger while you’re scrolling.
Often, scroll jank is caused by mousewheel or Touch Event listeners on the page (these are often used for tracking user interactions or for implementing custom scrolling experiences):

// Examples of event listeners that can negatively affect scrolling performance
document.addEventListener("wheel", handler);
document.addEventListener("touchstart", handler);

If one of these listeners is going to modify the default scrolling behavior of the browser, the browser has to cancel its optimized default scroll altogether (accomplished by web developers calling preventDefault() within handlers). Since browsers don’t always know if the listener is going to cancel the scroll, however, they always wait until the listener code executes before proceeding with the scroll, a delay which manifests itself as scroll jank:
An example page showing scroll jank due to a mousewheel handler with a 200ms duration.
Browsers identified this issue and shipped passive event listeners as a mitigation (available in Chrome 51+ and EdgeHTML 16+) to help reduce its scope:
The same example with smooth scrolling thanks to passive event listeners
Intersection Observers also help get around this issue by providing web developers with a mechanism to track user interactions with the page (to trigger lazy loading of infinite scrollers, for example) without affecting scrolling performance. These two approaches, however, still do not solve the cases where active event listeners are necessary, and require developers to be aware of the issues explained above and to change their sites in order for users to see improvements.
Given that we wanted to enable the best scrolling experience with PTP on as many sites as possible while minimizing developer work, we made the decision to not fire mousewheel events in response to PTP gestures (such as two finger pans). While this greatly reduced scroll jank and gave users a scrolling experience akin to the one they get on touchscreens, the lack of mousewheel events being fired unfortunately also meant that users were unable to zoom on sites such as Bing Maps and pan on sites that use custom scrolling controls (both of which expect mousewheel events coming from touchpads in order to operate).
Developers on our public issue tracker have made it clear that this has been a top pain point, however, the Microsoft Edge team wanted to ensure that the solution built to address these broken experiences not only fixed them, but also preserved the functional and performance benefits accrued by not firing mousewheel events.
PTP Pointer Events
As of EdgeHTML 17, Microsoft Edge will fire Pointer Events with a pointerType of “touch” in response to PTP gestures. While this is a departure from the mousewheel events of the past, we believe that the advantages to this approach more than justify the departure:
No additional overhead for modern websites
If your website already supports Pointer Events and touch, there is no additional work you need to do to take advantage of PTPs in Microsoft Edge; your site will just work!
If you have not yet implemented Pointer Event support, we strongly recommend you check out the MDN documentation for Pointer Events to prepare your site for the modern web. Pointer Events are available on Internet Explorer 11, Microsoft Edge, and Google Chrome and are in development in Firefox.
Enhanced scrolling performance
Scrolling with PTPs in Microsoft Edge will never cause scroll jank since Pointer Event handlers (unlike mousewheel and Touch Event handlers) are designed so that they cannot block scrolling.
With these new changes in Microsoft Edge, you can be certain that you are getting the best possible scrolling experience on PTP-enabled devices thanks to Pointer Events.
Improved Gesture Recognition/Site Functionality
Since PTP Pointer Events emulate touch Pointer Events, PTP gestures such as pinch to zoom and two finger panning will light up on sites that already support touch Pointer Events. This will allow developers to build near-native gesture experiences on the web, complete with the smooth animation and inertia curves that users have come to expect from interacting with pages via touch.
Using PTP Pointer Events
Using PTP Pointer Events on your site is as simple as registering for Pointer Events and using the touch-action CSS property to control how touches are handled by the browser:
In HTML, add the touch-action CSS property to your target element to prevent the browser from executing its default touch behavior in response to gestures (in Microsoft Edge, for example, this will prevent two finger swipes from triggering back/forward swipe behavior):

<canvas height=400 width=400 id="canvas" style="touch-action: none;"></canvas>

In JavaScript, attach a Pointer Event listener to your target element. You can determine the type of pointer that caused the handler to be invoked using the pointerType property of the event object passed into the event listener callback:

document.getElementById(‘canvas’).addEventListener(‘pointermove’, function(event) {
console.log(‘pointermove!’);
});

More detailed information on Pointer Events can be found on MDN here.
Once you have added Pointer Event support to your site, the only step that remains is understanding how Microsoft Edge exposes PTP gestures to sites as Pointer Events. Note that for both of the gestures below, the Pointer Events generated in EdgeHTML will be sent to the element that is directly under the cursor when the PTP gesture begins.
Two Finger Panning
The two finger PTP panning gesture is converted within EdgeHTML to a single contact gesture (identical to a single-fingered touch pan gesture) and is exposed to sites as such. The gesture originates at the cursor location and any movement of the fingers on the touchpad is translated to a scaled delta which results in a pan action. The CSS touch-action property can be used to control the way that a specific region can be manipulated by the user.
Zooming
The pinch to zoom PTP gesture is converted within EdgeHTML to a gesture that originates at the cursor location. Two contacts are placed at a scaled distance away from the cursor location and any movement of the fingers on the touchpad is translated into scaled deltas which results in a zoom action.

Rotation
PTP Pointer Events in Microsoft Edge introduce support for two-finger Rotation gestures for the first time, due to the fact that raw pointer data is exposed directly from the touchpad in all cases other than panning (where the two contacts on the touchpad are combined into one). Existing sites with Pointer Event handlers for touch that support rotation will light up with Precision Touchpads in Microsoft Edge as well.
What’s next
You can try out PTP Pointer Events in Microsoft Edge starting with our next Windows Insider release on any site that currently supports Pointer Events for touch gestures, including Bing Maps or Google Maps, on any device with a Precision Touchpad. The broader Windows 10 community will see PTP Pointer Events when EdgeHTML 17 ships with the next major release of Windows 10.
We are excited to enable jank-free and near-native touchpad experiences across the web using Pointer Events, and look forward to feedback on this feature from developers and end users alike! You can share any bugs you encounter in testing via Microsoft Edge Platform Issues or the Feedback Hub app on Windows 10, or give your feedback directly @MSEdgeDev on Twitter or in the comments below.
Try it out and let us know what you think!
— Scott Low