Tag Archives: Kinect

Building a Telepresence App with HoloLens and Kinect

When does the history of mixed reality start? There are lots of suggestions, but 1977 always shows up as a significant year. That’s the year millions of children – many of whom would one day become the captains of Silicon Valley – first experienced something they wouldn’t be able to name for another decade or so.

The plea of an intergalactic princess that set off a Star Wars film franchise still going strong today: “Help me Obi-wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.” It’s a fascinating validation of Marshal McLuhan’s dictum that the medium is the message. While the content of Princess Leia’s message is what we have an emotional attachment to, it is the medium of the holographic projection – today we would call it “augmented reality” or “mixed reality” – that we remember most vividly.

While this post is not going to provide an end-to-end blueprint for your own Princess Leia hologram, it will provide an overview of the technical terrain, point out some of the technical hurdles and point you in the right direction. You’ll still have to do a lot of work, but if you are interested in building a telepresence app for the HoloLens, this post will help you get there.

An external camera and network connection

The HoloLens is equipped with inside-out cameras. In order to create a telepresence app, however, you are going to need a camera that can face you and take videos of you – in other words, an outside-in camera. This post is going to use the Kinect v2 as an outside-in camera because it is widely available, very powerful and works well with Unity. You may choose to use a different camera that provides the features you need, or even use a smartphone device.

The HoloLens does not allow third-party hardware to plug into its mini-USB port, so you will also need some sort of networking layer to facilitate inter-device communication. For this post, we’ll be using the HoloToolkit’s sharing service – again, because it is just really convenient to do so and even has a dropdown menu inside of the Unity IDE for starting the service. You could, however, build your own custom socket solution as Mike Taulty did or use the Sharing with UNET code in the HoloToolkit Examples, which uses a Unity provided networking layer.

In the long run, the two choices that will most affect your telepresence solution are what sort of outside-in cameras you plan to support and what sort of networking layer you are going to use. These two choices will determine the scalability and flexibility of your solution.

Using the HoloLens-Kinect project

Many telepresence HoloLens apps today depend in some way on Michelle Ma’s open-source HoloLens-Kinect project. The genius of the app is that it glues together two libraries, the Unity Pro plugin package for Kinect with the HoloToolkit sharing service, and uses them in unintended ways to arrive at a solution.

Even though the Kinect plugin for Unity doesn’t work in UWP (and the Kinect cannot be plugged into a HoloLens device in any case), it can still run when deployed to Windows or when running in the IDE (in which case it is using the .NET 3.5 framework rather than the .NET Core framework). The trick, then, is to run the Kinect integration in Windows and then send messages to the HoloLens over a wireless network to get Kinect and the device working together.

On the network side, the HoloToolkit’s sharing service is primarily used to sync world anchors between different devices. It also requires that a service be instantiated on a PC to act as a communication bus between different devices. The sharing service doesn’t have to be used as intended, however. Since the service is already running on a PC, it can also be used to communicate between just the PC and a single HoloLens device. Moreover, it can be used to send more than just world anchors – it can really be adapted to send any sort of primitive values – for instance, Kinect joint positions.

To use Ma’s code, you need two separate Unity projects: one for running on a desktop PC and the other for running on the HoloLens. You will add the Kinect plugin package to the desktop app. You will add the sharing prefab from the HoloToolkit to both projects. In the app intended for the HoloLens, add the IP address of your machine to the Server Address field in the Sharing Stage component.

The two apps are largely identical. On the PC side, the app takes the body stream from the Kinect and sends the joint data to a script named BodyView.cs. BodyView creates spheres for each joint when it recognizes a new body and then repositions these joints whenever it gets updated Kinect.


private GameObject CreateBodyObject(ulong id)
{
    GameObject body = new GameObject("Body:" + id);
    for (int i = 0; i < 25; i++)
    {
        GameObject jointObj = GameObject.CreatePrimitive(PrimitiveType.Sphere);

        jointObj.transform.localScale = new Vector3(0.3f, 0.3f, 0.3f);
        jointObj.name = i.ToString();
        jointObj.transform.parent = body.transform;
    }
    return body;
}


private void RefreshBodyObject(Vector3[] jointPositions, GameObject bodyObj)
{
    for (int i = 0; i < 25; i++)
    {
        Vector3 jointPos = jointPositions[i];

        Transform jointObj = bodyObj.transform.FindChild(i.ToString());
        jointObj.localPosition = jointPos;
    }
}

As this is happening, another script called BodySender.cs intercepts this data and sends it to the sharing service. On the HoloLens device, a script named BodyReceiver.cs gets this intercepted joint data and passes it to its own instance of the BodyView class that animates the dot man made up of sphere primitives.

The code used to adapt the sharing service for transmitting Kinect data is contained in Ma’s CustomMessages2 class, which is really just a straight copy of the CustomMessages class from the HoloToolkit sharing example with a small modification that allows joint data to be sent and received:



public void SendBodyData(ulong trackingID, Vector3[] bodyData)
{
    // If we are connected to a session, broadcast our info
    if (this.serverConnection != null && this.serverConnection.IsConnected())
    {
        // Create an outgoing network message to contain all the info we want to send
        NetworkOutMessage msg = CreateMessage((byte)TestMessageID.BodyData);

        msg.Write(trackingID);

        foreach (Vector3 jointPos in bodyData)
        {
            AppendVector3(msg, jointPos);
        }

        // Send the message as a broadcast
        this.serverConnection.Broadcast(
            msg,
            MessagePriority.Immediate,
            MessageReliability.UnreliableSequenced,
            MessageChannel.Avatar);
    }
}

Moreover, once you understand how CustomMessages2 works, you can pretty much use it to send any kind of data you want.

Be one with The Force

Another thing the Kinect is very good at is gesture recognition. HoloLens currently supports a limited number of gestures and is constrained by what the inside-out cameras can see – mostly just your hands and fingers. You can use the Kinect-HoloLens integration above, however, to extend the HoloLens’ repertoire of gestures to include the user’s whole body.

For example, you can recognize when a user raises her hand above her head simply by comparing the relative positions of these two joints. Because this pose recognition only requires the joint data already transmitted by the sharing service and doesn’t need any additional Kinect data, it can be implemented completely on the receiver app running in the HoloLens.


private void DetectGesture(GameObject bodyObj)
{
    string HEAD = "3";
    string RIGHT_HAND = "11";

    // detect gesture involving the right hand and the head
    var head = bodyObj.transform.FindChild(HEAD);
    var rightHand = bodyObj.transform.FindChild(RIGHT_HAND);
        
    // if right hand is half a meter above head, do something
    if (rightHand.position.y > head.position.y + .5)
        _gestureCompleteObject.SetActive(true);
    else
        _gestureCompleteObject.SetActive(false);
}

In this sample, a hidden item is shown whenever the pose is detected. It is then hidden again whenever the user lowers her right arm.

The Kinect v2 has a rich literature on building custom gestures and even provides a tool for recording and testing gestures called the Visual Gesture Builder that you can use to create unique HoloLens experiences. Keep in mind that while many gesture solutions can be run directly in the HoloLens, in some cases, you may need to run your gesture detection routines on your desktop and then notify your HoloLens app of special gestures through a further modified CustomMessages2 script.

As fun as dot man is to play with, he isn’t really that attractive. If you are using the Kinect for gesture recognition, you can simply hide him by commenting a lot of the code in BodyView. Another way to go, though, is to use your Kinect data to animate a 3D character in the HoloLens. This is commonly known as avateering.

Unfortunately, you cannot use joint positions for avateering. The relative sizes of a human being’s limbs are often not going to be the same as those on your 3D model, especially if you are trying to animate models of fantastic creatures rather than just humans, so the relative joint positions will not work out. Instead, you need to use the rotation data of each joint. Rotation data, in the Kinect, is represented by an odd mathematical entity known as a quaternion.

Quaternions

Quaternions are to 3D programming what midichlorians are to the Star Wars universe: They are essential, they are poorly understood, and when someone tries to explain what they are, it just makes everyone else unhappy.

The Unity IDE doesn’t actually use quaternions. Instead it uses rotations around the X, Y and Z axes (pitch, yaw and roll) when you manipulate objects in the Scene Viewer. These are also known as Euler angles.

There are a few problems with this, however. Using the IDE, if I try to rotate the arm of my character using the yellow drag line, it will actually rotate both the green axis and the red axis along with it. Somewhat more alarming, as I try to rotate along just one axis, the Inspector windows show that my rotation around the Z axis is also affecting the rotation around the X and Y axes. The rotation angles are actually interlocked in such a way that even the order in which you make changes to the X, Y and Z rotation angles will affect the final orientation of the object you are rotating. Another interesting feature of Euler angles is that they can sometimes end up in a state known as gimbal locking.

These are some of the reasons that avateering is done using quaternions rather than Euler angles. To better visualize how the Kinect uses quaternions, you can replace dot man’s sphere primitives with arrow models (there are lots you can find in the asset store). Then, grab the orientation for each joint, convert it to a quaternion type (quaternions have four fields rather than the three in Euler angles) and apply it to the rotation property of each arrow.


private static Quaternion GetQuaternionFromJointOrientation(Kinect.JointOrientation jointOrientation)
{
    return new Quaternion(jointOrientation.Orientation.X, jointOrientation.Orientation.Y, jointOrientation.Orientation.Z, jointOrientation.Orientation.W);
}
private void RefreshBodyObject(Vector3[] jointPositions, Quaternion[] quaternions, GameObject bodyObj)
{
    for (int i = 0; i < 25; i++)
    {
        Vector3 jointPos = jointPositions[i];

        Transform jointObj = bodyObj.transform.FindChild(i.ToString());
        jointObj.localPosition = jointPos;
        jointObj.rotation = quaternions[i];
    }
}

These small changes result in the arrow man below who will actually rotate and bend his arms as you do.

For avateering, you basically do the same thing, except that instead of mapping identical arrows to each rotation, you need to map specific body parts to these joint rotations. This post is using the male model from Vitruvius avateering tools, but you are welcome to use any properly rigged character.

Once the character limbs are mapped to joints, they can be updated in pretty much the same way arrow man was. You need to iterate through the joints, find the mapped GameObject, and apply the correct rotation.


private Dictionary<int, string> RigMap = new Dictionary<int, string>()
{
    {0, "SpineBase"},
    {1, "SpineBase/SpineMid"},
    {2, "SpineBase/SpineMid/Bone001/Bone002"},
    // etc ...
    {22, "SpineBase/SpineMid/Bone001/ShoulderRight/ElbowRight/WristRight/ThumbRight"},
    {23, "SpineBase/SpineMid/Bone001/ShoulderLeft/ElbowLeft/WristLeft/HandLeft/HandTipLeft"},
    {24, "SpineBase/SpineMid/Bone001/ShoulderLeft/ElbowLeft/WristLeft/ThumbLeft"}
};

private void RefreshModel(Quaternion[] rotations)
{
    for (int i = 0; i < 25; i++)
    {
        if (RigMap.ContainsKey(i))
        {
            Transform rigItem = _model.transform.FindChild(RigMap[i]);
            rigItem.rotation = rotations[i];
        }
    }
}

This is a fairly simplified example, and depending on your character rigging, you may need to apply additional transforms on each joint to get them to the expected positions. Also, if you need really professional results, you might want to look into using inverse kinematics for your avateering solution.

If you want to play with working code, you can clone Wavelength’s Project-Infrared repository on github; it provides a complete avateering sample using the HoloToolkit sharing service. If it looks familiar to you, this is because it happens to be based on Michelle Ma’s HoloLens-Kinect code.

Looking at point cloud data

To get even closer to the Princess Leia hologram message, we can use the Kinect sensor to send point cloud data. Point clouds are a way to represent depth information collected by the Kinect. Following the pattern established in the previous examples, you will need a way to turn Kinect depth data into a point cloud on the desktop app. After that, you will use shared services to send this data to the HoloLens. Finally, on the HoloLens, the data needs to be reformed as a 3D point cloud hologram.

The point cloud example above comes from the Brekel Pro Point Cloud v2 tool, which allows you to read, record and modify point clouds with your Kinect.

The tool also includes a Unity package that replays point clouds, like the one above, in a Unity for Windows app. The final steps of transferring point cloud data over the HoloToolkit sharing server to HoloLens is an exercise that will be left to the reader.

If you are interested in a custom server solution, however, you can give the open source LiveScan 3D – HoloLens project a try.

HoloLens shared experiences and beyond

There are actually a lot of ways to orchestrate communication for the HoloLens of which, so far, we’ve mainly discussed just one. A custom socket solution may be better if you want to institute direct HoloLens-to-HoloLens communication without having to go through a PC-based broker like the sharing service.

Yet another option is to use a framework like WebRTC for your communication layer. This has the advantage of being an open specification, so there are implementations for a wide variety of platforms such as Android and iOS. It is also a communication platform that is used, in particular, for video chat applications, potentially giving you a way to create video conferencing apps not only between multiple HoloLenses, but also between a HoloLens and mobile devices.

In other words, all the tools for doing HoloLens telepresence are out there, including examples of various ways to implement it. It’s now just a matter of waiting for someone to create a great solution.

Music, a medical breakthrough and employee generosity – Weekend Reading: Feb. 12 edition

WR, StaffPad, Surface, music

Eleven-year-old composer Garrett Weyenberg, right, and StaffPad creator David William Hearn. Photo by David Palmer.

There was a lot to love this week at Microsoft, timely with Valentine’s Day on Sunday. We watched an amazing 11-year-old composer from McKinney, Texas, who now has an easier way to notate his award-winning creations, thanks to an app especially designed for Surface. We learned that Sir Paul McCartney created an exclusive set of love-inspired musical creations for Mojis on Skype. We saw how Kinect is being used to help quantify whether multiple sclerosis patients’ symptoms are stabilizing or getting worse. And we met some of the generous Microsoft employees who raised a record-setting amount of money last year for nonprofits around the globe.

Garrett Weyenberg was 2 when he started coming up with his own songs and compositions. At 10, he created an eight-minute piece called “Sonatina in G Major,” which won a regional composition contest. It was just one work in a vast collection of original music by the boy with bright blue eyes. But Garrett had no easy way to write his musical thoughts, no practical means for saving his music and sharing it with others to play. That all changed when Garrett turned 11, got a Surface Pro 3 for his birthday and started using StaffPad, a notation app designed for Surface that lets users handwrite music and save it for editing, playback and sharing. “He is composing music in his mind daily,” says Garrett’s mother, Stephanie Weyenberg. “StaffPad truly has been the game changer for him.”

Here, there and everywhere with Skype Mojis: Another composer, one we all know and love, Sir Paul McCartney, partnered with Skype to create the music for a new, exclusive set of love-inspired Mojis. Mojis, which are free, are unique to Skype and feature sound as well as video, giving your chats a whole new personality – and now, even more ways to express your love to friends and family around the world.

Kinect is being used to help multiple sclerosis patients. For years, healthcare company Novartis has been trying to find more consistent ways to quantify whether the treatments it is developing for MS are working. In conjunction with Microsoft researchers and use of Kinect, researchers at Novartis say they can get a more consistent reading of how a patient performs on each of the tests, bringing a new level of uniformity that will help doctors better assess the progress of the disease. That, in turn, could speed up the process of getting the right treatments to patients.

Microsoft employees raised a record $125 million last year for nonprofits around the globe, it was announced Wednesday. It was the greatest year-over-year increase ever – and the fifth year in a row that Microsoft employees raised more than $100 million. The participation rate hit an all-time high, at 71 percent, as employees donated more time, talent and money to help address local and global causes they care about most. In addition, Microsoft doubles the impact of every donation employees make to the causes of their choice, matching each gift. It also contributes $25 dollars for every hour employees volunteer their time.

employee giving, 2016

ArtsFund President and CEO Mari Horita stands with David Jones, a Microsoft employee who helped update the nonprofit’s technology, at the Bellevue Arts Museum in Washington. (Photo by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures)

New Microsoft Garage app, Fetch!, uses artificial intelligence to name that breed. Dog lovers will definitely want to play Fetch! Using your iPhone camera or photo library, the app can identify and classify dogs by breeds and tell you what kind of human personality fits best with specific breeds. And just for fun, the app will even take an informed guess on what kind of dog you or your friends might be. The app demonstrates the potential for Microsoft researchers’ continued advances in artificial intelligence, which have already appeared in other playful ways through Microsoft Project Oxford-powered experiences such as HowOld.net, TwinsOrNot.net, MyMoustache.net and Mimicker Alarm.

Fetch! app, Microsoft Garage, iOS

Not ready for Valentine’s Day? Not to worry. There’s plenty of time to connect with apps and experiences in Windows 10 and Cortana that will help set the mood, along with romantic movies and music from the Windows Store. If you want to create the perfect playlist, Pandora, Microsoft Groove and Shazam can help. You might want to try Music for Lovers, which has 30 songs all queued up for you. You can also head over to the Movies & TV section of the Windows Store for the Love is in the Air collection of titles. Find a great spot to eat with OpenTable, or use Cortana in Microsoft Edge to get restaurant reviews, help you book your table, and even remind you when it’s time to go.

Five new military bases are being added to Microsoft’s career transition program. The Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA) helps service members who are preparing to transition to civilian careers in technology. Hundreds have graduated from the academy, which will be offered at five additional Army installations this year and next. Those installations are: Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Carson, Colorado; and Fort Bliss, Texas.

This week on the Microsoft Instagram channel, we caught up with Kyle Schwaneke, a talented young developer on the Xbox team, who also has Asperger’s. Kyle was one of the first employees in Microsoft’s program to hire people with autism, and now he’s thriving as a mentor to the newest group of candidates.

Kyle Schwaneke, autism, engineer, Xbox

Kyle Schwaneke. Photo by Brian Smale.

Yes, there was a lot to love about this week. Let’s keep it goin’! And happy Valentine’s Day to all!

Posted by Suzanne Choney
Microsoft News Center Staff

Helping military vets build new careers, applauding a hands-on young researcher and ‘connecting’ cows for healthier herds – Weekend Reading: August 21 edition

It may be August and prime vacation time, but it was a busy week of interesting news at Microsoft. Let’s get started.

The #GiveThem20 challenge raises awareness of the need to help returning military veterans transition to fulfilling civilian careers. Chris Cortez, vice president of Microsoft Military Affairs, and other Microsoft employees recently rose to the challenge, which included 20 push-ups. It was part of an ongoing commitment to helping servicemen and women.

“Microsoft is committed to training and hiring veterans and helping them secure high-paying technology careers, and Microsoft is proud to employ many former servicemen and women from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and U.S. Coast Guard,” wrote Cortez, a retired Marine Corps major general.

Jamie-Shotton-640x427

Jamie Shotton at Microsoft Research Cambridge was named one of MIT Technology Review’s Innovators under 35, a distinction that honors exceptionally talented young innovators whose work the editors believe has the greatest potential to transform the world. Previous winners include Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Shotton was among the researchers who played a key role in bringing Kinect to market. A differentiating feature for Xbox, the system has improved health care and made meetings more productive. Shotton has continued to build on the work with a more recent project called Handpose, which aims to track hand motions to millimeter precision.

“Creating something that really empowers people to do new things – that really excites me,” Shotton said.

Hake-on-farm-640x430

In Germany, Microsoft is playing a big role in a modern breakthrough for a traditional industry: dairy farming. We looked at a family farm using an Internet of Things solution based on Windows Embedded software and Microsoft Azure cloud technology to monitor cows for illnesses and milk production.

“When I get up in the morning and put on my boots, I don’t go to the stables first. I check my PC for alerts about whether any cows are sick, and I’m in the know right away,” said farmer Steffan Hake of the dairy’s “connected-cow” technology.

BODY_myRoundPro

Microsoft Band and TaylorMade announced the official launch of myRoundPro’s integration with Microsoft Band, continuing a partnership providing the latest and greatest golfing technology.

“Microsoft Band is the first wearable that, with TaylorMade and myRoundPro, tracks your golf game and overall fitness in one integrated device,” wrote Brian Bilodeau, Microsoft Health general manager. Data on your game includes mapped shot locations, fairways you’ve hit, putts per round and more.

The August update for the Xbox app on Windows 10 delivered high-res game streaming, with a new setting for gamers who have the bandwidth to stream 1080p/60fps Xbox One games to Windows 10 PCs. The higher-quality setting will be perfect for when the “Mad Max” game for Xbox One arrives Sept. 1. It’s now available for pre-order. The “Mad Max: Fury Road” movie is also available in the Movies & TV Store, and “Mad Max” fans have a chance to receive a bonus hood ornament.

Mad-Max-640x426

In other news, Microsoft released its third Technical Preview of Windows Server 2016 and System Center 2016, which is chock full of features aimed at helping businesses accelerate app innovation. Chief among them is the first public preview of Windows Server Containers, which will allow millions of Windows developers to experience the benefits of containers for the first time using the language of their choice. You can take a deeper dive on the Server & Cloud blog and Scott Guthrie’s blog.

Azure Government also reached key milestones this week, in the form of four new industry certifications. The certifications are from FedRAMP Moderate Provisional Authority to Operate (P-ATO); DISA Level 2 Provisional Authorization (PA); HIPAA Business Associate Agreement (BAA); and support for federal tax workloads under IRS Publication 1075.

“With these announcements, Azure holds the largest number of industry, government and international certifications of any commercial cloud provider,” wrote Tom Keane, Microsoft Azure partner director of program management.

Castle-Secrets-Hidden-Objects-640x360

Finally, the App of the Week was “Castle Secrets: Hidden Objects,” a game that stars you as the hero who must fulfill a prophecy to save a kingdom from evil. It’s a lot of responsibility – and fun. You can install it for $2.99 on your PC and $1.99 on your Windows Phone.

Thanks for reading and see you next time!

Posted by Vanessa Ho
Microsoft News Center Staff

Sneak peeks at new games, more Windows 10 perks and Kinect-powered music — Weekend Reading: Aug. 7 edition

August seems to have crept up on us, and its first week has brought some exciting news for gamers, Windows 10 users, music fans, Microsoft employees and plenty of others around the globe. We’ve rounded up the highlights for this latest edition of Weekend Reading.

Microsoft made a splash at gamescom 2015, the world’s biggest interactive games and entertainment expo, by unveiling new footage for some highly anticipated games for Xbox and Windows 10. The company debuted world-premiere gameplay of “Crackdown 3,” “Scalebound” and “Killer Instinct Season 3,” alongside a new gameplay demo of the eagerly awaited “Quantum Break.”

Xbox also announced the launch dates of Xbox One Backward Compatibility, the Xbox One Halo 5: Guardians Limited Edition Bundle and “Halo Wars 2,” an exciting new strategy game packed with fast-paced action, massive battles and an all-new Halo story, which is coming to Xbox One and Windows 10 in fall 2016. Xbox Wire has all the details of these games and more.

gamescom image

Microsoft gave several employee benefits a big boost this week, including the expansion of parental leave for new mothers and fathers. Among the changes, mothers will now be able to take 20 weeks of fully paid leave if they choose.

The company is also adding two more paid holidays — Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Presidents Day – and increasing amount of deferrals the company will match in its 401(k) plan.

“The people of Microsoft truly are what make our company great,” Kathleen Hogan, executive vice president of Human Resources wrote on the Official Microsoft Blog. “These changes are in direct support of the culture we aspire to have — one that allows people to build meaningful careers.”

Microsoft also announced changes to its Law Firm Diversity Program aimed at working toward a more diverse and inclusive legal profession.

Microsoft Kinect is being used to power an extraordinary music and light installation this weekend in New York. Delqa uses the interactive technology to let people walking through the New Museum’s NEW INC space the ability to manipulate and reshape the sounds and sights, closing the usual gap between artist and audience.

The project highlights Microsoft’s broader aim to give musicians, artists and tech-minded people new ways to work together to create revolutionary experiences, transforming the future of music and art.

Microsoft’s digital storytelling app Sway is now generally available and is rolling out to all eligible Office 365 for business and education customers worldwide, enabling organizations to start using it to create and share interactive reports, lessons, projects and more.

Anyone can use Sway with a free Microsoft account. All you need are the ideas and raw content; Sway “creates a polished, cohesive layout that helps your images, text, videos and other media flow together in a way that enhances your story,” the Sway team wrote in a blog post with all the details.

Sway

 

The results are in from an incredible week in Los Angeles, where thousands of athletes competed in the 2015 Special Olympics World Games. Microsoft partnered with the organization to modernize its games management system and donated more than 2,000 devices to track the events.

The company also followed the journeys of four athletes as they trained for, traveled to and competed in the games. Each had plenty of family support and brought home medals.

Andy Miyares

And there’s plenty of apps news this week. Outlook on the Web rolled out some new tools and a cleaner user interface to help you be more efficient. The Twitter app for Windows 10 now has a new timeline preview, location-based tweets and other new features.

You can also keep track of what’s going on in the world with Flipboard, which lets you build your own personal magazine with social updates and the news that interests you, or the USA TODAY app, which has been redesigned for Windows 10.

Flipboard image

You’re now caught up on the week’s news. Check out Weekend Reading next week, same time and place, and in the meantime, enjoy a relaxing summer weekend.

Posted by Tracy Ith
Microsoft News Center Staff

Challenge for Change winners inspire, apps keep your devices in sync and Kinect powers a symphony — Weekend Reading, May 29 edition

Young people who just might change the world, apps to help you achieve more and a first-of-its-kind musical performance were just a few of this week’s highlights. Before you settle into a relaxing weekend, take a look back at the news and find some great reasons to feel inspired.

challengeChangeWinners_collage

Ten teens and young adults with cool ideas to do good in the world won Microsoft’s YouthSpark Challenge for Change contest. Winner Abhishek Paudel is now even more dedicated to bringing health care to remote areas of Nepal after the April earthquake destroyed his family’s entire village, and Dana Berejka, who learned about the sad toll of malaria when a little girl she was corresponding with in Rwanda died from it, plans to help protect others from the disease.

Paudel, Berejka and the other eight winners each get $2,500 to kick-start their projects, a Windows Phone and an incredible trip to Nicaragua to do hands-on volunteer work. If you want to be inspired — and possibly feel like an underachiever — you can read more about these ambitious young people and their big ideas to change the world.

Of course you, too, can do more in the world with a couple of cool new apps coming to Windows 10 that let you move seamlessly among all of your devices regardless of which operating system you’re using. The Phone Companion app on Windows 10 PCs will help you set up a Windows phone, Android Phone or iPhone to make sure your photos, music, documents and other important stuff are there wherever you are.

The second app is good news for Android and iPhone users: You’ll soon be able to access Cortana, letting you take advantage of all the great perks of having Microsoft’s super-smart digital personal assistant bring some order to your busy life.

Android tab

And more good news comes from the company’s “cross-platform services strategy to bring an array of Microsoft services to every person on every device,” writes Nick Parker, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Original Equipment Manufacturer Division: Microsoft apps and services will now be available on even more Android tablets. Agreements with 20 new device partners, including LG, Sony and Haier, mean a total of 31 partners will soon offer Android tablets pre-installed with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive and Skype.

Symphony

And speaking of new partners, what happens when you pair a gifted symphony maestro with Kinect? The result was a 20-minute performance that captivated audience members who were lucky enough to attend the one-of-a kind event. Seattle Symphony Music Director Ludovic Morlot used the motion-sensing technology to control a set of reed horns, chimes and a grand piano to play “Above, Below and In Between,” by Seattle-based kinetic sculptor Trimpin. Learn more about the two-year effort in this video.

Morlot says the idea of conducting with Kinect took him out of his comfort zone. “I’ve been old-fashioned in a way, studying music. The element of bringing technology to it is foreign to me,” he says. “That’s what attracted me to it.”

busline

Another novel idea is giving kids in southwest Detroit a safe, reliable way to get to tech classes, reading programs and sports camps. The Detroit Bus Company’s efforts are featured in a series about how entrepreneurs are reshaping a post-bankruptcy Detroit. Learn more about the bus line’s creator, Andy Didorosi, and others who break boundaries and #DoMore on Microsoft’s Instagram page.

photo caption

Ever need to write a quick caption for a photo? Soon, a computer could be doing it for you. Microsoft researchers are developing technology that can automatically identify the subjects in a picture, interpret what’s happening and write an accurate caption explaining it. Beyond being a useful tool, it shows big promise for Microsoft’s work in the artificial intelligence arena.

Rhonna designs

Looking for a little flair for your photos instead? You can add some style with Rhonna Designs, our app of the week. Or for some weekend adventure, dive in and save humanity in “Overkill 3” — new for Windows — or battle villains in “Monster GO!” Too much pressure? Popping balloons as you navigate a twisty maze in “Bloons TD 5” might be the way to go.

And from this edition of Weekend Reading, that’s a wrap! Time for you to find your own ways to change the world — or at least enjoy your Saturday and Sunday.

Posted by Tracy Ith
Microsoft News Center Staff

Microsoft releases Kinect SDK 2.0 and new adapter kit

Today, we have some exciting news to share about the next chapter for Kinect. Our Windows SDK 2.0 is now available for the Kinect v2 sensors, and developers can commercially deploy Kinect apps in the Windows Store for the first time.

Kinect democratized motion sensing in 2010 and today that journey continues. We are introducing a $49.99 (USD) adapter kit that enables you to take the Kinect for Xbox One you already own and attach it to Windows PCs and tablets. With the adapter, all Kinect v2 sensors—Kinect for Windows v2 and Kinect for Xbox One—perform identically.

Kinect SDK 2.0. Since last November when we gave our developer preview program participants access to an early version of the SDK, we have been listening. Over the past year, the team has engaged in dozens of hackathons, worked through countless issues reported by you, and we are only getting started. Thank you for the amazing feedback, dedication, and passion!

The Kinect SDK 2.0 is available today for you to download for free here. There are no fees for runtime licenses of commercial applications developed with the SDK. With over 200 improvements and updates to the SDK since we released the public preview in June, including enhancements to Visual Gesture Builder, Kinect Studio, and Kinect Fusion, we get you coding faster with a substantially more stable and feature-rich product. 

Kinect Apps in Windows Store. For the first time, you can commercially deploy Kinect apps in the Windows Store. This was a frequent request from the community and we are delighted to enable you to bring more personal computing experiences that feature gesture control, body tracking, and object recognition to Windows customers around the world. Access to the Windows Store opens a whole new marketplace for business and consumer experiences. Several of our partners have already taken advantage of this and have apps available for download in the Windows Store today including:

  • Kinect Evolution: An app that helps developers understand the core capabilities of the Kinect for Windows v2 technology.
  • YAKiT: An entertaining app from the developers at Freak n’ Genius that allows people without design expertise to animate 2D or 3D characters in real time.
  • 3D Builder: An app that enables anyone to scan a person or object, turn it into a 3D model, and create a 3D print of that model. You no longer have to be a technologist or have access to a 3D printer to create amazing 3D prints!

Kinect Adapter for Windows. On Oct. 7, we introduced a standalone version of Kinect for Xbox One.  We are extending the value for Xbox and Windows customers with the availability of the Kinect Adapter for Windows for $49.99 (USD). This adapter allows you to use the Kinect for Xbox One with Windows 8.0 and Windows 8.1 through a USB 3.0 port. Purchasing the Kinect for Xbox One sensor along with the adapter brings it to price parity with the existing Kinect for Windows v2 sensor. The Kinect Adapter for Windows is available in over two dozen countries and regions – rolling out later today – and will be available in a total of 41 in coming weeks.

These updates are all part of our goal to make Kinect accessible and easy to use for every developer. We created Kinect as a way to make computer interaction more intuitive and to address an increasing desire for technology to be more accessible. We are seeing a lot of interest from businesses to bring interactive experiences to their customers that allow people to interact naturally with technology by simply gesturing and speaking. Now, with the ability to commercially deploy the latest Kinect technology in a variety of industries and environments, there is a big opportunity for developers to meet the demand.

Here are two examples of things partners are doing with the technology today:

  • Care Innovations, a joint venture from Intel and GE, and developers at RespondWell, are working together to provide new physical therapy resources for seniors. They understand how difficult it can be for seniors to visit their therapist’s office on a daily basis, so they created an interactive program to help patients exercise in the comfort of their own home while providing Kinect-based gesture monitoring to ensure patients are exercising with the proper form. The program also provides valuable insight for their therapists to track the progress of their patients.
  • Ubi Interactive is bringing their interactive technology that turns any surface into a touchscreen to Colegio de Bachilleres del Estado de Puebla in Puebla, Mexico. The solution creates an interactive whiteboard for teachers where they can bring subjects like physics, history and math to life through dynamic content that grabs the attention of the whole class. The school district is breaking down barriers of access to Internet resources for their students and is the first education institution to utilize this type of interactive teaching. The Ubi Interactive solution has been deployed in classrooms throughout the district, bringing learning to life for more than 26,000 Mexican students.

These are just a few examples where our partners are improving the human experience. As we move into a more personal, natural, and intuitive era of computing, we are thrilled to see the valuable and creative ways in which Kinect is being embraced, and look forward to seeing what you will do with it next.

It’s a humbling and amazing dream to be able to represent this team. In that spirit, and from all of us, thank you! I’m excited about the impact Kinect can have on society in areas like healthcare, retail, entertainment, and education and can’t wait to see what you do with it next.

 

 

Weekend Reading: Aug. 29th Edition – Surface Pro 3 now in 28 markets and Royal Caribbean provides 40,000 crew members with Windows tablets

This week, we’ve got stories on Surface Pro 3’s increased availability worldwide, Royal Caribbean Cruises going more high-tech by giving its crew Windows 8.1 tablets, and Bing in the Classroom’s lesson plans are back for a second school year.

Surface Pro 3 is now available in 25 additional markets around the world, bringing the total to 28 markets, including the United States, Canada and Japan. The 25 new markets are: Australia, Austria, Belgium, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Korea, Luxembourg, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand and the United Kingdom. The Surface Pro 3 Docking Station is available for pre-order, and will be generally available starting Sept. 12.

SurfacePro3Primary_Page

Windows 8.1 tablets are headed into the hands of Royal Caribbean’s 40,000 crew members, with those on the line’s newest ship, Quantum of the Seas, to be the first to get the 8-inch tablets built by HEXA for the cruise line. The tablets will include services such as Bing, Skype, Office 365 and OneDrive, and will provide a vital lifeline for ship staff to stay in touch with family members. Guests aboard the Quantum of the Seas will also be able to play games with friends around the world using Xbox One consoles, available for the first time on Royal Caribbean’s ships through Xbox Live and the ship’s unprecedented connectivity.

Royal Caribbean gives its crew members 40,000 Windows 8.1 tablets

As kids head back to school, Bing in the Classroom will be there, too. Since last fall, the program has published nearly 800 lessons plans that are paired with Bing’s stunning home page photos. When used with Bing in the Classroom’s ad-free search offering, the lesson plans enable students to practice critical thinking and search skills in an ad-free, safer and more private online environment.

A Siberian tiger takes a swim at the Antwerp Zoo in Belgium (© Hans Kuczka/Aurora Photos)

A Siberian tiger takes a swim at the Antwerp Zoo in Belgium (© Hans Kuczka/Aurora Photos)

Just in time for football season, “Madden NFL 15” was released, along with a special bundle for Xbox One. For $399, you can get both the game and the Xbox One console, including wireless controller and a chat headset, with the bundle available at Microsoft retail stores and other select U.S. retailers. You also won’t want to miss the special events at Microsoft retail stores tied to the release of “Madden NFL 15,” as well as to “Destiny,” Bungie’s much-anticipated first-person shooter that will be out Sept. 9. Hands-on gameplay, prizes and free food are all part of the in-store celebrations.

Madden NFL 15, Weekend Reading

The Kinect sensor for Xbox One will become available as a standalone purchase starting Oct. 7. It will cost $149.99, and also come with “Dance Central Spotlight,” from developer Harmonix. The Kinect experience includes voice and gesture controls, biometric sign-in, instant personalization, instant scanning of QR codes and enhanced features only available with Kinect in games such as “Kinect Sports Rivals,” “Dead Rising 3,” “Project Spark” and more.

Kinect sensor, Xbox One, Weekend Reading

New Azure SQL Database service tiers with reduced pricing were announced for the database-as-a-service that gives customers greater price performance and business continuity for cloud apps.There also will be a new performance level, hourly billing and an enhanced service-level agreement of 99.99 percent availability. As of November, customers will see savings of up to 50 percent on previously published prices for Premium and Standard tiers.

Did you spot Spotify in the Windows Phone Store? The free app lets you choose from millions of music tracks. You can browse, listen and create playlists, and you can save and share music, as well as follow others. The revamped NFL Fantasy Football apps for Windows and Windows Phone is our App of the Week, letting you join and create leagues in just minutes, and track live scoring on the go of your fantasy matchup and favorite players, with in-game video highlights available as soon as they happen on the field. You don’t want to miss the limited-time FREE Disney Games sale for Windows Phones, with six games available, including “Disney Solitaire” and “Toy Story: Smash It!” There’s also the Indie Game Spotlight in the Windows Phone Store for games like “Skelly Rider,” “Manuganu 2,” “Timberman by Digital Melody” and more than 30 others. The Share to Speech app turns articles into speech or MP3 files by sharing a Web page or pasting its link. It can also convert Microsoft Word and PowerPoint documents, along with many other text files, into speech. When you install Share to Speech from the Windows Store ($4.99), it also comes with the version for Windows Phone.

Spotify for Windows Phone

Spotify app for Windows Phone.

This week on the Microsoft Facebook page, we offered the ultimate back-to-school prize package. For a chance to win, tweet an #8WordEssay about this photo. Join us on our page to learn more on how to enter.

Microsoft Facbook page, 8-word essay, Weekend Reading

Hope you don’t have to labor too much – or at all – this weekend. Thanks for joining us for this edition of Weekend Reading, and we’ll see you next week!

Posted by Suzanne Choney
Microsoft News Center Staff

 

Weekend Reading: July 4th Edition—ISTE conference shows off Office Mix, OneNote and partner apps

In this edition of Weekend Reading, we’ve got stories on The International Society for Technology in Education conference, the latest schools to use Surface and profiles on Office exec Julia White and Tyler Schrenk, who overcame a life-changing injury with help from Surface Pro and Xbox.

At the recent ISTE 2014 conference in Atlanta, Microsoft shared how teachers are using Office Mix and OneNote. Since the customer preview for Office Mix became available in May, teachers have been using the tool in unexpected ways that are influencing how Microsoft will continue to evolve it. For Cary Academy in North Carolina, OneNote helps bridge devices with students’ learning objectives. Microsoft’s partners also unveiled transformational tools that support 21st-century learning: the AssistX TestPolicy app and the Sebit Global Education Cloud, VCloud.

The Selinsgrove Area School District in rural Pennsylvania, and St. Thomas School, a K-8 school in Washington state, are on opposite coasts, but they share one thing: They’re using Surface. In the past year, teachers and students in 30 markets around the world have adopted Surface, including the Supreme Education Council of Qatar, Tuckahoe Common School District, St. Andrews Anglican College, St. Patrick’s College, Williston Northampton School, Twickenham Academy and CDI College.

A profile on Julia White, general manager of product marketing for Office, shows how she embraces change and fights to move both technology and business to its future state – and how a leather jacket has become her signature accessory. At the San Francisco launch event for Office for iPad, she was Satya Nadella’s co-presenter at his first appearance as the CEO of Microsoft in the Bay Area tech industry and media epicenter.

WR_Julia White

Following a life-changing injury, Tyler Schrenk uses the Surface Pro with speech recognition software and an Xbox One to help him connect.The quick connections many take for granted – email, online news websites, Facebook and other social media – slowed dramatically for Schrenk because it was hard to adapt technology to his new circumstances. Now, he’s able to check his email, follow his favorite sports teams, read the newspaper and look at the weather. He’s also enrolled in computer science classes at a local community college and hopes one day to find employment in programming.

With the acquisition of SyntaxTree, creators of the UnityVS plugin for Visual Studio, Microsoft has the opportunity to integrate support for Unity even more deeply into Visual Studio.UnityVS enables Unity developers to take advantage of the productivity of Visual Studio to author, browse and debug the code for their Unity applications. Already, dozens of the biggest names in game development rely on Visual Studio and the UnityVS plugin.

clip_image002

We saw the U.S. debut of the Lumia 635 and a bonanza of Windows Phone and Windows apps, many of them new or on sale. The Lumia 635, which comes with Windows Phone 8.1 and the Cortana personal digital assistant, will be available at both T-Mobile and MetroPCS beginning in July. When you get that phone, install the App of the Week, Adobe Photoshop Express. The Staff App Pick, the Good.Co app for Windows, helps you find out if you’re a good fit for that dream job. The latest Red Stripe Deals sale sparkles with games like “Bejeweled LIVE.” The Indie Game Spotlight Collection collects some monthly standouts from a growing community of independent developers, and the Windows Phone Blog focuses on 10 of those. The Conversations blog also weighed in on their top 10 favorite Windows Phone games for June. New titles from Gameloft also give you more choices for play. You can also find a round-up of apps that help you bring your favorite TV shows on-the-go.

clip_image003

In this week’s installment of Snaps, Microsoft Stories’ digital photo album, the team wishes you a very sweet Fourth of July with this tasty take on the Microsoft logo, spotted backstage at a recent press event.

clip_image005

This week on the Microsoft Facebook page, we introduced you to Julian Mayor, who mixed Victorian furniture with Xbox control. Read his story, and tell us what you’ve created using #ICreatedThis.

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Thanks for checking out this edition of Weekend Reading. Hope you’re enjoying your holiday! See you next week!

Posted by Athima Chansanchai
Microsoft News Center Staff

Weekend Reading: July 4th Edition—ISTE conference shows off Office Mix, OneNote and partner apps

In this edition of Weekend Reading, we’ve got stories on The International Society for Technology in Education conference, the latest schools to use Surface and profiles on Office exec Julia White and Tyler Schrenk, who overcame a life-changing injury with help from Surface Pro and Xbox.

At the recent ISTE 2014 conference in Atlanta, Microsoft shared how teachers are using Office Mix and OneNote. Since the customer preview for Office Mix became available in May, teachers have been using the tool in unexpected ways that are influencing how Microsoft will continue to evolve it. For Cary Academy in North Carolina, OneNote helps bridge devices with students’ learning objectives. Microsoft’s partners also unveiled transformational tools that support 21st-century learning: the AssistX TestPolicy app and the Sebit Global Education Cloud, VCloud.

The Selinsgrove Area School District in rural Pennsylvania, and St. Thomas School, a K-8 school in Washington state, are on opposite coasts, but they share one thing: They’re using Surface. In the past year, teachers and students in 30 markets around the world have adopted Surface, including the Supreme Education Council of Qatar, Tuckahoe Common School District, St. Andrews Anglican College, St. Patrick’s College, Williston Northampton School, Twickenham Academy and CDI College.

A profile on Julia White, general manager of product marketing for Office, shows how she embraces change and fights to move both technology and business to its future state – and how a leather jacket has become her signature accessory. At the San Francisco launch event for Office for iPad, she was Satya Nadella’s co-presenter at his first appearance as the CEO of Microsoft in the Bay Area tech industry and media epicenter.

WR_Julia White

Following a life-changing injury, Tyler Schrenk uses the Surface Pro with speech recognition software and an Xbox One to help him connect.The quick connections many take for granted – email, online news websites, Facebook and other social media – slowed dramatically for Schrenk because it was hard to adapt technology to his new circumstances. Now, he’s able to check his email, follow his favorite sports teams, read the newspaper and look at the weather. He’s also enrolled in computer science classes at a local community college and hopes one day to find employment in programming.

With the acquisition of SyntaxTree, creators of the UnityVS plugin for Visual Studio, Microsoft has the opportunity to integrate support for Unity even more deeply into Visual Studio.UnityVS enables Unity developers to take advantage of the productivity of Visual Studio to author, browse and debug the code for their Unity applications. Already, dozens of the biggest names in game development rely on Visual Studio and the UnityVS plugin.

clip_image002

We saw the U.S. debut of the Lumia 635 and a bonanza of Windows Phone and Windows apps, many of them new or on sale. The Lumia 635, which comes with Windows Phone 8.1 and the Cortana personal digital assistant, will be available at both T-Mobile and MetroPCS beginning in July. When you get that phone, install the App of the Week, Adobe Photoshop Express. The Staff App Pick, the Good.Co app for Windows, helps you find out if you’re a good fit for that dream job. The latest Red Stripe Deals sale sparkles with games like “Bejeweled LIVE.” The Indie Game Spotlight Collection collects some monthly standouts from a growing community of independent developers, and the Windows Phone Blog focuses on 10 of those. The Conversations blog also weighed in on their top 10 favorite Windows Phone games for June. New titles from Gameloft also give you more choices for play. You can also find a round-up of apps that help you bring your favorite TV shows on-the-go.

clip_image003

In this week’s installment of Snaps, Microsoft Stories’ digital photo album, the team wishes you a very sweet Fourth of July with this tasty take on the Microsoft logo, spotted backstage at a recent press event.

clip_image005

This week on the Microsoft Facebook page, we introduced you to Julian Mayor, who mixed Victorian furniture with Xbox control. Read his story, and tell us what you’ve created using #ICreatedThis.

clip_image007

Thanks for checking out this edition of Weekend Reading. Hope you’re enjoying your holiday! See you next week!

Posted by Athima Chansanchai
Microsoft News Center Staff

Weekend Reading: July 4th Edition—ISTE conference shows off Office Mix, OneNote and partner apps

In this edition of Weekend Reading, we’ve got stories on The International Society for Technology in Education conference, the latest schools to use Surface and profiles on Office exec Julia White and Tyler Schrenk, who overcame a life-changing injury with help from Surface Pro and Xbox.

At the recent ISTE 2014 conference in Atlanta, Microsoft shared how teachers are using Office Mix and OneNote. Since the customer preview for Office Mix became available in May, teachers have been using the tool in unexpected ways that are influencing how Microsoft will continue to evolve it. For Cary Academy in North Carolina, OneNote helps bridge devices with students’ learning objectives. Microsoft’s partners also unveiled transformational tools that support 21st-century learning: the AssistX TestPolicy app and the Sebit Global Education Cloud, VCloud.

The Selinsgrove Area School District in rural Pennsylvania, and St. Thomas School, a K-8 school in Washington state, are on opposite coasts, but they share one thing: They’re using Surface. In the past year, teachers and students in 30 markets around the world have adopted Surface, including the Supreme Education Council of Qatar, Tuckahoe Common School District, St. Andrews Anglican College, St. Patrick’s College, Williston Northampton School, Twickenham Academy and CDI College.

A profile on Julia White, general manager of product marketing for Office, shows how she embraces change and fights to move both technology and business to its future state – and how a leather jacket has become her signature accessory. At the San Francisco launch event for Office for iPad, she was Satya Nadella’s co-presenter at his first appearance as the CEO of Microsoft in the Bay Area tech industry and media epicenter.

WR_Julia White

Following a life-changing injury, Tyler Schrenk uses the Surface Pro with speech recognition software and an Xbox One to help him connect.The quick connections many take for granted – email, online news websites, Facebook and other social media – slowed dramatically for Schrenk because it was hard to adapt technology to his new circumstances. Now, he’s able to check his email, follow his favorite sports teams, read the newspaper and look at the weather. He’s also enrolled in computer science classes at a local community college and hopes one day to find employment in programming.

With the acquisition of SyntaxTree, creators of the UnityVS plugin for Visual Studio, Microsoft has the opportunity to integrate support for Unity even more deeply into Visual Studio.UnityVS enables Unity developers to take advantage of the productivity of Visual Studio to author, browse and debug the code for their Unity applications. Already, dozens of the biggest names in game development rely on Visual Studio and the UnityVS plugin.

clip_image002

We saw the U.S. debut of the Lumia 635 and a bonanza of Windows Phone and Windows apps, many of them new or on sale. The Lumia 635, which comes with Windows Phone 8.1 and the Cortana personal digital assistant, will be available at both T-Mobile and MetroPCS beginning in July. When you get that phone, install the App of the Week, Adobe Photoshop Express. The Staff App Pick, the Good.Co app for Windows, helps you find out if you’re a good fit for that dream job. The latest Red Stripe Deals sale sparkles with games like “Bejeweled LIVE.” The Indie Game Spotlight Collection collects some monthly standouts from a growing community of independent developers, and the Windows Phone Blog focuses on 10 of those. The Conversations blog also weighed in on their top 10 favorite Windows Phone games for June. New titles from Gameloft also give you more choices for play. You can also find a round-up of apps that help you bring your favorite TV shows on-the-go.

clip_image003

In this week’s installment of Snaps, Microsoft Stories’ digital photo album, the team wishes you a very sweet Fourth of July with this tasty take on the Microsoft logo, spotted backstage at a recent press event.

clip_image005

This week on the Microsoft Facebook page, we introduced you to Julian Mayor, who mixed Victorian furniture with Xbox control. Read his story, and tell us what you’ve created using #ICreatedThis.

clip_image007

Thanks for checking out this edition of Weekend Reading. Hope you’re enjoying your holiday! See you next week!

Posted by Athima Chansanchai
Microsoft News Center Staff