Microsoft OneAlbum


Microsoft Research have got another great project on the go, this one is called OneAlbum. Using advanced facial recognition algorithms, OneAlbum will scan the photos on your machine, identify the people that appear most often and then go off and find relevant pictures in other people’s social networking accounts.

This will be perfect for finding all the pictures of you/your partner/your kids that were taken at the last birthday/BBQ/impromptu gathering and posted by a bunch of people on Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, Picasa and countless other sites.

I’m  not much into gatherings and pictures and social networking (Twitter excluded) but I can imagine that a lot of people spend a lot of time going through people’s accounts trying to find pictures from last night etc :-)

Thanks to Mary Jo (again) and her article here.

Microsoft Research: Project Gustav


Microsoft Research are at it again!

Project Gustav takes digital painting (at least) one step closer to looking like authentic brush paintings, giving it an un-paralleled level of realism:

Pastel fishSmearing effectsStreaky horsePastel clouds - (Cloud computing??)

“It achieves interactivity and realism by leveraging the computing power of modern GPUs, taking full advantage of multitouch and tablet input technology and our novel natural media-modeling and brush-simulation algorithms.”

You can see more info and a video over on the Microsoft Research site here:

http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/projects/gustav/default.aspx

Microsoft’s Mobile Surface


Microsoft’s interactive, multi touch, 23rd century Surface is brilliant. However it is also, literally, the size of a table and so not particularly portable.

However, Mary Jo Foley has uncovered information of a planned “Mobile Surface”. Microsoft Research’s site states:

“Our goal is to bring Microsoft Surface experience to mobile scenarios, and more importantly, to enable 3D interaction with mobile devices. We do research on how to transform any surface (e.g., a coffee table or a piece of paper) to Mobile Surface with a mobile device and a camera-projector system. Besides this, our work also includes how to get 3D object model in real-time, augmented reality and multiple-layer 3D information presentation.”

I’d carry one of those about if it meant I could turn any surface into a multi-touch surface that I could use, demo, play and work on :-)

Microsoft’s Translate–a-Phone


Microsoft don’t always get the credit they deserve for being innovative, cutting-edge and cool but this new project is all those things.

Software that translates, pretty much on the fly, the real time conversation you’re having…with a real person…right now. Awesome and very useful! As you can see in the video below, it will transcribe and translate the audio and paste it into Office Communicator for you; it will then also allow you to archive that off into Exchange. Seeing,and hearing, the real time translation is pretty amazing…the German is being spoken at a regular, conversational rate and while there are some grammatical/syntaxical errors, it’s more than good enough to get the gist of what the other person is saying.

This is going to be hugely useful is so many areas, especially in multi-national corporations. Bechtle are in (I think) 14 countries and there are times that this would be brilliant.

Of our foreign locations, I have most contact with our German HQ and while I speak rudimentary German, and they pretty great English, sometimes that just isn’t enough. Particularly if discussing complicated/technical issues you don’t want the added complexity of words (if not sentences) being missed out or mis-understood…and this would go a long way to removing that element of doubt. I’m off to see if I can become some kind of tester for this ;-)

Shout out to Tech Flash for this.

Microsoft Research & Guitar Hero


Guitar Hero is awesome (and Rockband-don’t worry!) and Microsoft Research are pretty great too. So what happens when you put the two together? I’ll tell you…playing Guitar Hero without a controller!

This would definitely reduce the amount of space that all the guitars take up, and make it easier to carry them around (should you wish). They also show the technology being used to control an MP3 player whilst out jogging…just move a finger to skip, pause, play etc…something that would definitely take off :-)

Again, more great work from Microsoft Research :-)

Microsoft Total Recall


This is a great piece on the work going on inside Microsoft Research called MyLifeBits. Gordon Bell and his colleague Jim Gemmell have been working to digitally record nearly everything that goes in in Gordon’s life…and make it a useful data repository. As Graham said:

“I was saving everything, but it became clear that the problem was a search problem. You could save everything…but the big problem was organizing and then searching…”

They created a database to store all this data and then wrote software to collect, scan and label all the things captured, which include emails, pictures, phone calls, web pages visited, documents, scanned receipts and more!

A real life example:

“If I’ve ever seen a Web page, I’ve got a copy of it, and I can find it again quickly because I only have to search my own corpus, not the entire Web.”

That sounds pretty great to me :-) The number of times that I know I’ve seen something on a site and I either can’t remember which one, or I get the right site but just can’t find the page is crazy…and this’d be a good way to sort that out. Not sure about storing EVERY web page though you know ;-)

This work is a great example not just of what Microsoft Research get up to, but also a great example of what IT in general can do for the world. 10-15 years down the line when MyLifeBits is commonplace-finding information will be so much easier!

Check out the full article over at MS Research here.

Office 2010 Background removal


The new background removal tool in Office 2010 is fantastic!

I hadn’t played around with it before but I just saw a tweet about some of the technology inside it, and my interest was piqued! This new ability is inside Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Outlook and helps bring out the part of the picture that you actually want to use in your document. It’s pretty clever, methinks a demo is needed:

Original Picture:

Insert the picture into Word (in this example) and hit the “Background Removal” button:

image

Which brings up the “marquee”:

image

The rectangle can be moved, stretched and extended to cover the exact area you need and then it cuts away all the background to give you:

image

That is pretty amazing how it’s taken out the sea etc in the background but there are a few issues…there’s that patch under it’s flipper that’s still there and you might notice that he’s now missing his tail!

That isn’t the end of it though, there are a couple of extra tools that enable you to correct the above:

image

With these you can mark specific areas to be included/removed despite what the algorithm might suggest :-)

image

You can see the markers on it’s flipper and the tail and now the picture looks like this:

image

Perfectly formed turtle with none of the background…nice :-)

I did however discover that simply tightening up the rectangle in the original picture caused the missing/extra bits of picture to correct themselves!

This is a great addition and some really clever work from Microsoft Research-well done guys!!! :-)

You can see the original MS post here.

Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2008


I was a regular watcher of the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures in years gone by, but have found the last few years to be somewhat lacklustre. I’d still watch them but always feel a little short changed :-(

This year (2008) is much better though, this year’s lectures are all about computers and are being delivered by Prof. Chris Bishop, head of Microsoft Research in Cambridge! I know I’m a couple of days late with this post but my Sky+ has been playing up so today was my first chance to once them, and they’re definitely worth the wait. Today’s (Wednesday) lecture contained a great explanation of Binary counting which I think will be used as a reference base for a lot of people as it was very concise and easy to understand.

The 2nd episode (that was shown on Tuesday night) contains some great demo’s of some of the wonderful technology that MS Research have been/are creating including Surface and the Roundtable. It was great to hear the sounds of wonder and awe as the kids present saw what the Surface table was capable of…and I have to say I was pretty impressed by the Video puzzle as well!

MS Surface Video Puzzle

MS Surface Video Puzzle

 This next picture shows the 360-degree panoramic view of the Roundtable displayed on Microsoft’s spherical display. It looks much cooler in the video as Prof. Bishop scrolls the panorama around the sphere!

Roundtable on a Sphere

Roundtable on a Sphere

 Other posts on the Roundtable can be found here.

For anyone that has missed the lectures and/or simply wants to re-watch them, they are now available an DemandFive completely free.

Microsoft SecondLight


The Microsoft SecondLight device is seriously cool…it’s like the Surface…but even better!

It’s quite hard to explain in words what it does without making it sound rubbish and/or pointless. It can display one image on the table and then another image through that which is viewable through paper placed on the table..if that doesn’t make sense, I’m sorry…but the picture below show’s what I mean. The Surface is displaying the pic of the car and then you can also see the blueprint..

A cool video demo can be seen here (warning: Will open in Windows Media Player)

I saw this through a combination of Gizmodo & PCPro..