Cutting-edge workspaces, Internet of Things near-space balloons and using the cloud to help giraffe populations — Weekend Reading: April 15 edition

Spring has officially sprung. Birds are in the trees. Flowers are blooming. We don’t know if it’s the season or what, but Microsoft too is bubbling over with excitement and new stories. Join us for Weekend Reading for an overview of recent happenings.

As Microsoft works to empower everyone on the planet to achieve more, the company is making a statement with new, vibrant workspaces for employees. The totally redone Buildings 16 and 17 on the Redmond campus are office-free and designed with an unparalleled range of working environments. Employees and even executives collaborate in large, shared rooms called “neighborhoods.” They roam high-ceilinged hallways and stop for impromptu meetings in atriums that capture and perpetuate light.

The buildings have all of the tech company staples: free beverages, ping pong and pool tables, the gourmet café and standing desks. But they also have Xbox game rooms, the company’s first-ever No Tech Lounge and a number of other unexpected delights.

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There are several new updates to the Mail and Calendar apps that originally debuted with Windows 10 in July.

You can now customize the background by adding screenshots, accent and calendar colors and themes. You can also connect multiple email accounts in the Mail app and see them all at once through Linked Inboxes. Windows 10’s digital personal assistant also works well with these apps, so you can use your voice to add events to your calendars, set reminders that show up in the Calendar app and start composing emails through Cortana.

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Matt Long and Mark Nichols worked together at the Azure Center of Excellence, where they helped customers architect solutions for the Microsoft Cloud. Now they have built a balloon that can go to near-space – and take thousands of people along for the ride, virtually, in a demonstration of the Internet of Things in action.

Known as the Pegasus II mission, a compact probe rose to 100,000 feet above the earth. The team was able to remotely control it, gather a ton of data, release it after two hours and document its journey through videos and photos. Back here on Earth, anyone was able to follow along through their website and mobile app.

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Scientists from the Wild Nature Institute are photographing thousands of giraffes to study the reproduction, survival and movements of the population. The institute is using a new image processing service that utilizes machine learning technology deployed on the Microsoft Azure cloud to evaluate the thousands of images.

The Microsoft team trained a software model to use an object detection algorithm to recognize giraffe torsos based on existing annotated giraffe data. The system identified new, difficult-to-predict images and showed its predictions on these images to a human who could quickly verify or correct the results.

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Hulu, the App of the Week, is making it easier to cut the cord and walk away from expensive cable TV bills. Not only does the Hulu app offer unlimited streaming, but now the free trial period has grown from a week to 30 days.

The Hulu app delivers shows from a variety of channels and original Hulu series like “The Mindy Project” starring Mindy Kaling as an OB-GYN in New York City, “The Path” with Aaron Paul delving into the mysterious world of a cult-like movement and “11.22.63,” in which a high school teacher played by James Franco travels back in time to a day before the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

This week on the Microsoft Facebook and Instagram channels, we witnessed how electronic artist ATTLAS blends elements of live and studio performance on his Surface. As a member of deadmau5’s mau5hax bu5 tour, together they’re transforming how audiences experience electronic music.

That does it for this Weekend Reading. We hope you enjoyed it, and look forward to seeing you again next week.

Thomas Kohnstamm
Microsoft News Center Staff

The post Cutting-edge workspaces, Internet of Things near-space balloons and using the cloud to help giraffe populations — Weekend Reading: April 15 edition appeared first on The Official Microsoft Blog.

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