Think of your favorite pieces of technology. These are the things that you use every day for work and play, and pretty much can’t live without.
Chances are, at least one of them is a gadget – your phone, maybe, or your gaming console.
But if you really think about it, chances also are good that many of your most beloved technologies are no longer made of plastic, metal and glass.
Maybe it’s a streaming video service you use to binge watch “Game of Thrones” on or an app that lets you track your steps and calories so you can fit into those jeans you wore back in high school. Maybe it’s a virtual assistant that helps you remember where your meetings are and when you need to take your medicine, or an e-reader that lets you get lost in your favorite book via your phone, tablet or even car speakers.
Perhaps, quietly and without even realizing it, your most beloved technologies have gone from being things you hold to services you rely on, and that exist everywhere and nowhere. Instead of the gadgets themselves, they are tools that you expect to be able to use on any type of gadget: Your phone, your PC, maybe even your TV.
They are part of what Harry Shum, executive vice president in charge of Microsoft’s Technology and Research division, refers to as an “invisible revolution.”
“We are on the cusp of creating a world in which technology is increasingly pervasive but is also increasingly invisible,” Shum said.
Bing’s sports predictions, beautiful murals around the world and a photographer’s Great Barrier Reef adventure are just a few reasons to take a look back at the week’s news at Microsoft. We’ve rounded up some of the highlights in this latest edition of Weekend Reading.
If you’re settling in to watch some football this weekend, you may want to first check out which teams Bing Predicts expects to win. Seattle or Carolina? Kansas City or New England? You can find predictions for the divisional round matchups on Bing or using the new “Cortana! Powered by Bing Predicts” feature on Xbox and the Windows 10 app.
Bing also offers what ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Williams calls “a one-of-a-kind predictive NCAAB experience” with AreWeIn.net, a data-driven tool that predicts whether your favorite teams will make this year’s NCAA tournament.
This week Skype marked a big milestone: 10 years since it changed the way people connect with colleagues and loved ones with the launch of free video calling. To celebrate, Skype is rolling out group video calling on Android, iPhone, iPad and Windows 10 mobile — and it’s free.
Skype video calling has been used in incredible ways on various platforms and devices. Couples use it to keep in touch when they’re apart, soldiers use it to witness the births of their children, explorers in remote areas connect with classrooms of students and more. Users have made nearly 2 trillion minutes of video calls over the past decade.
This week Microsoft announced a new flagship event for business leaders, Microsoft Envision, to take place April 4-6 in New Orleans. It replaces Microsoft Convergence as the premier event for execs and business leaders around the world. Registration is now open.
Attendees “can expect to gain insights, uncover solutions and build connections to help them achieve more,” writes Chris Capossela, Microsoft executive vice president and chief marketing officer.
It’s also almost time to reserve your place at Build 2016; registration opens Tuesday. The three-day developer conference begins March 30 this year in San Francisco.
For those of you who appreciate unusual art, local artists in 17 cities around the world have created stunning murals that bring new color to their communities as part of the “Designed on Surface” project. The collaboration is aimed at art that embodies the spirit of people who do great things and the places that inspire them.
Graffiti artists drew inspiration from Microsoft’s core theme, “Do great things,” and each used the latest Microsoft devices to enhance their creative process.
In apps this week, there’s plenty to keep you busy this winter weekend, no matter what Mother Nature has in mind. You can try liberating the world in the World War II-inspired “Panzer Geekz,” which sends you through model landscapes with combat based in toy physics and plastic destruction rather than graphic carnage.
Or put the pedal to the metal in “Smashy Road: Wanted” and go on the run from police, SWAT teams, Army jeeps and thundering tanks as you choose from dozens of different vehicles and navigate erratically changing terrain.
The latest table pack in the “Star Wars” Pinball lineup, “Star Wars Pinball: The Force Awakens,” is now available for “Pinball FX2” on Xbox One and Xbox 360, and is coming soon to Windows 10. The two-pack ($2.99 each as an in-app purchase) presents two different perspectives on the smash hit film.
“The Banner Saga,” now out for Xbox One, is a tactical, role-playing game based on quick, brutal decisions. The game’s art director and writer share how this thrilling adventure came together in an interview with Xbox Wire.
This week on the Microsoft Tumblr page, we caught up with Sonja Rasula, founder of Unique Markets and The Unique Space, which bring the work of local designers, artisans and creatives to the public. Her focus on quality over quantity is fostering the future of makers in the United States.
You’re now caught up on the latest news around Microsoft. See you back here in one week for our next edition of Weekend Reading.
We often tell stories with words, trying to choose just the right ones to describe what we’re doing or how we’re doing it. But sometimes, it’s numbers that can give us a clearer picture.
Today we’re rolling out our new Microsoft by the Numbers site to highlight some cool facts that numbers show best. We’ve tallied some of the ways Microsoft is helping people all over the planet achieve more each day — and we’re keeping tabs on some less momentous stuff, too. Like lunch. More on that in a bit.
First, did you know Skype Translator can translate your voice calls in six different languages and your instant messages in 50 of them? That means people around the globe can not only connect but truly communicate, hopping over language barriers of the past to talk to each other in real time.
And did you know more than 1.5 million young people from more than 190 countries have competed in Microsoft’s Imagine Cup?
That’s a huge number of tech-minded kids and young adults who’ve gotten to learn from Microsoft experts and vie for cash prizes as they work to turn creative ideas into the next big thing.
How about the fact that five Microsoft researchers have won the A.M. Turing Award, a.k.a. the “Nobel Prize of computing?” That number may just show what we already know: Microsoft Research scientists and engineers are top-notch in making product advances as well as helping solve global challenges.
You can also find out how many orders of French fries Microsoft employees put away each year in campus cafeterias — it’s pretty impressive — and other quirky things we’ve quantified.
We’ve crunched the numbers. See for yourself how they help tell Microsoft’s story.
The Force is with us big-time this week: We’ve got stories about Skype Translator debuting in Mandarin and Italian, Build 2015 making a first-ever road tour worldwide, and all six Star Wars films being available digitally for the first time on Xbox Video.
Skype Translator adds two more languages, Mandarin and Italian, joining Spanish and English in the preview program. Adding Mandarin Chinese is quite a feat; it’s a “very challenging language to learn, even for Skype Translator,” noted Yasmin Khan in a Skype blog post. “With approximately 10,000 characters and multiple tones, this is one of the most difficult languages for a native English speaker to master, along with Arabic, Japanese and Korean.” Microsoft researchers and scientists in Beijing, China, worked very closely with their U.S.-based colleagues to build the recognition, language and translation models for Mandarin.
Build is doing a road trip! Build 2015, the developers’ conference April 29-May 1 in San Francisco, is sold out, but if you want to see some of Microsoft’s latest technologies and hear Build speakers in person, you’re in luck: Build is going on the road. The Build Tour, from May 18 through June 15, will come to 10 cities around the world: London, New York, Atlanta, Austin, Sao Paulo, Berlin, Mexico City, Singapore, Auckland and Sydney.
Our app of the week is the new Shazam, which makes exploring, buying and sharing music even easier for Windows Phone users. You can now preview favorite Shazams with Xbox Music Playbox and add your favorite songs from Shazam’s Charts to the My Shazam section. Meanwhile, if you’re just starting your taxes (*looks at self*), get some help from Mint, MSN Money and other apps, including TaxCaster, which lets you quickly calculate your estimated tax refund. If, after your tax prep, you’re not in the mood to cook for real, you can still have some fun with the game, “Toca Kitchen 2,” with some crazy new food combinations to try out. Or just let it go, and play the updated “Frozen Free Fall,” with 45 new birthday levels, three new game modes and dazzling dresses.
Put down that purse! (Or man purse.) Weekend Reading is here to offer a much-needed break from the mall, and the cyber shopping, with some must-reads you won’t want to miss. … You’re welcome.
For more than a decade, Skype has been breaking down geographical barriers to make everyday audio and video communications possible. Now, using innovations from Microsoft Research, Skype is removing the language barrier. The first phase of Skype Translator, which includes two spoken languages, Spanish and English, and more than 40 instant messaging languages will be available to Skype customers who have signed-up via the Skype Translator and are using Windows 8.1 on their desktop or device.
Hang onto your virtual hat! Inspired by top searches of 2014, the Bing Predicts team has applied its technology to the coming year and uncovered emerging trends expected in 2015 by analyzing search, social and cultural signals. Bing predicts that the New England Patriots will take home the Lombardi trophy and that Beyoncé will earn a Grammy for Album of the Year. Bing’s window into 2015 includes predictions forfashion, sports, awards, travel, food and more.
For many with Type 1 diabetes, monitoring blood-sugar levels is an arduous affair. For parents of kids with Type 1 diabetes, it’s not only painstaking, it can be terrifying. Enter Nightscout, an open-source solution that uses the cloud to allow remote monitoring of blood-sugar levels in real time, all the time. Microsoft is assisting the effort with free access to Azure.
‘Tis the season for scams of all kinds, unfortunately. On the Microsoft on the Issues blog this week came guidance for protecting yourself against fraudulent companies masquerading as tech support. Microsoft has received more than 65,000 customer complaints regarding tech support scams since May, and wants consumers to be aware of the schemes that are out there and what to do to protect yourself.
“Annie” – starring Quvenzhané Wallis, Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz and Rose Byrne – opened Thursday, to the happy shrieks of excited little girls everywhere. Director and writer Will Gluck reveals the starring role technology played in bringing the film to life. Gluck writes and updates documents using Microsoft Word. When he needed to approve costumes for “Annie,” he used Skype. When he needed to check out locations to film in New York, he used the Surface Globe app (powered by Bing Maps). “The reality is, you don’t really know how many Microsoft products you use until you think about it,” Gluck says.
In apps this week: Xim 1.3enables you to share photos on the big screen via streaming media devices, including Xbox One, Chromecast, Apple TV and ADD Amazon Fire TV. Just in time for the holidays, more hot buys from the Music Deals app. Save the “Family Guy” town of Quahog with this clever game now free for Windows. Finally, brighten your holidays with a seasonal theme selection 40-apps and games strongfrom the Windows Phone Store: Celebrate Christmas in London with “Subway Surfers,” send personalized Christmas cards through “Talking Santa” and fight winter battles in “Cloud Raiders.”