Since 2001, Microsoft has held an annual internal event called Microsoft Research TechFest, at which the company's researchers give employees a glimpse into upcoming technology, hoping to excite and inspire them about the future. At this year's TechFest event, Microsoft Research demonstrated technologies ranging from consumer- and programmer-oriented computer tools to an HIV tracking system that might eventually lead to a cure for AIDS. Like earlier TechFest events, the company held this year's gathering at the Microsoft campus in Redmond.
This year's TechFest participants included more than 400 researchers from Microsoft Research labs in Beijing; Cambridge, England; Mountain View, California; Redmond; and San Francisco. Also on hand were Mike Rowe, the Canadian teenager who became involved in a legal spat with Microsoft when he registered the domain name MikeRoweSoft, and Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates, who wandered from booth to booth, looking for cool technologies.
Some of the highlights from this year's show include a photo-stitching application that creates seamless panoramic images from several photos, a microphone that can pick out a single voice in a loud crowd of people, a Web navigation system that uses a numeric keypad that's similar to a cell phone's keypad, new programming tools called KISS and Zing that can help developers find coding errors, a project called Swarm that lets people more easily send text messages to preset groups of contacts, and an application called Shield that protects Windows systems from known vulnerabilities even when those vulnerabilities haven't yet been patched.
Although TechFest is largely an internal event, Microsoft publicly demonstrated a few of the research products this week. One application lets TV viewers edit recorded sporting events so that they see only the portions they want to see. For example, you might edit a baseball game so that you see only the hits. Microsoft Research said the software works with baseball, basketball, and soccer. The company will likely include a future version of the software in Windows XP Media Center Edition (XP MCE).
Other demonstrated technologies included photo-editing software that can automatically pick out the best shots in a sequence of similar pictures and a tiny camera called SenseCam that's worn like a pendant and automatically captures events throughout the day, then stores those images in a digital diary. Microsoft said SenseCam stores 2000 images in a 12-hour day.
Microsoft will incorporate each of these technologies, in some way, in Windows Longhorn or other future Microsoft products. Past products that came out of Microsoft Research included the Tablet PC and the Smart Personal Object Technology (SPOT) Smart Watches, which Microsoft launched earlier this year at the 2004 International Computer Electronics Show (CES).