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Microsoft PDC 2008: Day 3 Wrap-Up

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Announcments from Microsoft Research

The PDC 2008 Day 3 keynote was presented by Rick Rachid, senior vice president of Microsoft Research. Eight different Microsoft Research projects, in various stages of development, were highlighted during the talk. The underlying theme of the talk was about using the power of software applications to meet the tough and unique needs of users today and in the future.

Rick’s first big announcement was the limited release of the Microsoft Surface SDK. The Surface features being made available to developers in the SDK are direct user interaction, multi-touch, multi-user, object recognition. Microsoft Surface devices can read over 50 simultaneous touches at once. Capturing and acting on that kind of input figures to be an interesting challenge.

Some new features for Microsoft’s Worldwide Telescope were announced as well. A new 3-D Solar System can now be browsed, and it looks amazing. In addition, more than 1000 new telescope images have just been added to the application. Finally, Worldwide Telescope users can now upload and share their own celestial images with others. Existing users of the software will be prompted to download the new features the next time they run it.

The SenseWeb project uses tiny devices that monitor conditions in data centers in order to regulate and optimize power consumption. In today’s green-conscious world, efforts to conserve energy in large datacenters is extremely important. These devices can also be deployed and monitored by scientists studying climate change.

Boku is a new game developed by Microsoft Research that teaches children programming fundamentals in a fun way. In the game, players must program a virtual robot named Boku. The 3D game play looks great should be a fun and educational experience for kids.

Other new Research projects demoed during the session were:

  • DryadLINQ – A programming environment to create and debug large scale data parallel systems using a flavor of LINQ (Language Integrated Query).
  • SecondLight – A new rear-projection system based on Microsoft Surface that allows projection on a large translucent sheet of plastic. Users of the system can utilize gestures to control the system.
  • RoboChamps – A competition that involves programming a simulated Mars Rover. Using simulated, rather than physical, robotics hardware opens robotics development to a much larger user base.

 

Inside the Olympics: An Architecture and Development Review

Eric Schmidt presented a session about Microsoft’s delivery of live and rebroadcast Olympics streaming online video via Silverlight and a Windows Media Player (WMP) plug-in. The WMP feed was provided for those who chose not to install Silverlight. This presentation was not a deep dive on the development of the application, but rather a high level overview of the architecture and partnerships necessary to deliver such a broad range of sports coverage to an audience whose size was not entirely known. It was a fascinating presentation, one I recommend watching on Channel9.

Summary

Microsoft PDC 2008 had some surprises, new software releases, and a ton of great technical content. There was so much more going on than one person could dream of capturing. For more great PDC articles and reviews, check out the links below.

 

More PDC Coverage

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