We know wearables are going to be the next big thing, but Microsoft Research has taken it to an entirely new direction.
Neowin reports that they have created a new bra laden with sensors which read things such as your heart rhythm, skin conductance, and even movement via a 3 axis accelerometer and two axis gyroscope.
The data is then used to build up a picture of a users emotional state, after they spend some time calibrating it.
Data is transmitted via Bluetooth to a user’s smartphone, and from there to the cloud.
TechnologyReview spoke to Microsoft’s new head of research, Peter Lee, asking how they will help elevate Windows Phone to above its current niche status.
Lee was previously head of the computer science department at Carnegie Mellon University and currently managed more than 1,100 Microsoft researchers across 13 facilities.
He said Microsoft was committed to using the best best concepts in hardware, devices, and sensors in Windows Phones, and they wanted to give the user a more natural interaction, with a phone that is aware of what the user is doing. They were currently looking at new classes of sensors and even wearable computing.
“We have committed to bringing highly personalized machine learning technology into the phone,” he said.
Lee said Machine Learning was Microsoft Research’s number one investment.
Microsoft Research has released another Windows Phone app, this time to check the speed of your cellular and WIFI network.
The app measures both upload and download speeds and keeps a history of previous tests. Microsoft is also using the app to collect anonymous data about network quality and availability at the same time, which may include location data if you agree.
The free app is Windows Phone 8-only and can be found in the Windows Phone Store here.
Microsoft has updated their BLINK photo app, which takes a series of photos in quick succession and allows users to choose the best picture to save, to also publish the pictures as a brief animation.
Version 2 of the app features:
- Camera settings – change camera settings such as scene mode, exposure, white balance and ISO in capture mode
- Animation – Quickly set the motion range for animation in addition to selecting the best shot after capture
- Sharing – Share the animations to BLINK.so.cl, Facebook, or Twitter
- In-app viewing – View the animations in the in-app history, wait for a moment and they start animating!
- Web gallery – From the in-app history, view your shared BLINKs in the web gallery
- Save another – Your BLINKs are always saved within the app. Come back and save another shot to camera roll or change the animation range via "edit" in the in-app history
The app works as well as before, and you can now share your animations to BLINK.so.cl (which is not live yet), but I think Microsoft missed a trick by only letting users trim the animation, rather than more advanced editing of the resulting video.
The app is free and can be found in the Windows Phone Store here.
Microsoft Research has published an article on a new seamless mobile payment system which utilizes mobile phones and a Kinect sensor, and would mean never having to reach into your pocket for either your wallet or phone.
The system is called Zero-Effort Payment and would uses unique identifiers in the phone’s Bluetooth stack to detect when a user signed up to the service has entered a shop, and a Kinect sensor with the face recognition system to identify a customer that is waiting to pay.
The system presents cashiers with a choice of four possible faces, displayed on a tablet housed near the till. They simply pick the right face when the customer is ready to pay.
The system then emails the customer with confirmation of the purchase, including a 10-second video, in case they wish to dispute the transaction.
According to Stefan Saroiu, from Microsoft Research, who developed the system alongside colleagues, ZEP would also allow retailers to deliver more personalised customer service, such as offering frequent buyer discounts, without forcing the customers to carry a loyalty card.
Microsoft has been testing the system at one of own cafeterias, as well as on a coffee stand at its TechFest conference.
“Across our two deployments, 274 customers made 705 purchases, and we received no complaints about the wrong customer being billed,” the researchers boasted.
Read more about the potential service in the Microsoft Research Paper here.
More than a year ago we reported on Microsoft designing a â€œone handed and next gen soft keyboardâ€ for Windows Phone 8.
We now have a picture of the keyboard in question, courtesy of a leaked Microsoft Research presentation.
The keyboard is designed for one-handed thumb typing without having to look and features several keys clustered together, leveraging disambiguation to decide what word is in fact being typed.
The change would be Microsoftâ€™s most radical change to the Western SIP yet, and is reminiscent of the curved keyboards found in the old Microsoft UMPCs.
Apollo will also bring extended national Soft Keyboards including a new Korean design.
Seeing the keyboard demoed on a HTC Trophy of course also gives us hope this will in fact also be coming to Windows Phone 7.8.
Do our readers like the design? Let is know below.
Personalization and customization is a particular issue on Windows Phone 7, where the best users can do is arrange tiles and chose main and accent colours.
In a Microsoft Research paper recently published the researchers propose creating a background service on a Windows Phone which would collect information from sources such as Facebook, twitter and email to build up a broadstroked profile of a user, such as â€œbusiness executiveâ€ or â€œsoccer mumâ€ which could then be presented to applications via an API, much like how the accent colours are being presented to apps at the moment, allowing them to customize their appearance, features and even advertising to users, without revealing actual details to the apps, and therefore still protecting the privacy of users.
Calling the service MoRePriv, the researches implemented the framework on top of Windows Phone 7, and note that it allowed apps to be personalized while effectively reducing the amount of privileges applications needed, thereby protecting the user.
Read their paper at Microsoft Research here.
We of course have no idea if this research will actually end up in the Windows Phone OS, but it would be an interesting way to allow more customization of Windows Phone while still keeping everything coherent.
Microsoft Research has released an interesting application designed to make it slightly easier to learn Mandarin.
Tip Tap Tones represents a new way to â€œsharpen your earsâ€ and retrain your brain to identify the foreign sounds of Mandarin Chinese, in a game format that is challenging and enjoyable for learners of all levels.
Tip Tap Tones helps one to identify the sounds and tones of Mandarin Chinese. In the game, you listen to a Mandarin sound before tapping the button representing the tone and syllable you thought you heard. The game begins with just a single syllable and four tone options, but as you progress by giving correct responses, the sounds get faster and the number of confusable syllables increases. By making you pay close attention to small differences between similar sounds, Tip Tap Tones gets you learning to listen just like a native speaker.
The game should be an invaluable tool for anyone learning the Chinese Language.
Tip Tap Tones is free and can be found in Marketplace here.
Microsoft Research have posted about HomeMaestro: a platform that helps end users program their home appliances.
HomeMaestro is a platform for intuitively defining home appliance behaviour. The key concept in HomeMaestro is a repository of rules defined by other users, which can be mashed into interesting scenarios. These rules could be simple if-then statements, such as â€œif my bedroom window is open, then switch off the heater.â€ The rules can be defined on Windows Phone 7 and uploaded to the cloud (Project Hawaii web services and Windows Azure) for later use and sharing.
To date, the HomeOS research prototype has been running in more than a dozen homes and nearly 50 students, across several institutions, have already built some exciting applications for HomeOS.
Read more about the project at Microsoft Research here.
Its always nice to see Microsoft Research actually applying their talents to Windows Phone rather than some other random mobile OS.
Their latest project to pop up is a way to reduce load times for Windows Phone 7 apps. The method, dubbed â€œFALCONâ€, would use context e.g. location, date, time, or in this case the connected WIFI network to learn and predict which apps you are about to use and load them into the fast app switching stack.
One of the researchers, Tingxin Yan, explains:
A context-aware mobile app preloading component for mobile OS. Based on intensive data analysis of app usage across multiple mobile users, FALCON presents a decision engine which exploits temporal and spacial characters of user behaviour to pre-load apps ahead of time, thereby improves the responsiveness of smartphones.
The project is to be presented at the MobiSys 2012 conference in June. The research is part of a broader Microsoft Research project called â€œContext Data OS (ConDOS)â€ which aims to enhance mobile operating systems by integrating and responding to context.
Hopefully if this does come to fruition Microsoft will radically increase the number of apps in the fast switching stack, so the list is not cluttered with apps I may use, but of course those ones I am actually using.
Its always good when Microsoft Research releases on Windows Phone before other platforms.
Their latest contribution is a neat photo manipulation app called Face Touch.
The app allows one to change facial expressions on a photo and share the results on your social network, which should be pretty fun.
The description reads as below:
Create funny facial expressions by poking different parts, unlock different steps and solve the final mystery! This app uses face-related technologies from Microsoft Research. For best results, please select a photo with frontal faces in good lighting condition.
â€¢ Tap your face to create funny facial expressions
â€¢ Multi-face detection
â€¢ Integrated with Pictures Hub
â€¢ Share your photos on Facebook, Twitter, SkyDrive or Sina Weibo
The app is free and can be found in Marketplace here
Microsoft’s Applied Sciences Group has developed a touchscreen prototype that reduces input latency down to 1ms. While current smartphones and tablets with fully optimized operating systems such as Windows Phone and iOS don’t generally feel laggy in operation, they still have a delay of about 100ms before your touch input is actually recognized and converted into a UI interaction, according to the company’s research. Comparing between latencies of 100, 10 and 1 milliseconds on the new prototype â€“ which is not actually a touchscreen but simply a projector surface â€” there’s a very noticeable improvement as the latency goes down, with the touch target sticking to the finger no matter how fast it’s moving.
It’s great to see Microsoft constantly working to improve touchscreen interaction, essential for a fast and fluid operation of touchscreen devices, even though Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8 are already doing very well in this regard.
Microsoft Research is working on a capacitive sensor technology which would allow users to control their smartphone without removing their phone from their pocket.
In the prototype consists of a custom multi-touch capacitive sensor mounted on the back of a smartphone, which appears to be a Samsung Focus, but with low level access to the existing capacitive sensors in the phone no additional hardware would be required.
While the creators of the technology envision users being able to respond to text messages by touch and also without removing the phone from your pocket, the other scenario of being able to control music playback without removing the phone from your pocket sounds even better, and wont make people wonder why you appear to be fondling your groin
Read more about the technology at Microsoft Research here.
Via NY Times.com
Microsoft Hawaii is a set of cloud services provided by Microsoft Research to universities and students to explore the potential of cloud-enabled applications.
The service includes a Relay Service, to connect devices on different networks, OCR in the Cloud, returning text for uploaded images, Speech to text, cloud computing using Azure, cloud storage in a virtual SQL database, mapping and identification using Windows Live ID.
The Relay service is necessary as most mobile service providers do not provide mobile phones with consistent public IP addresses that would allow for them to be reachable from other devices. This makes it difficult to write applications where mobile phones communicate with each other directly.
The Hawaii Relay Service provides a relay point in the cloud that mobile applications can use to communicate. It provides an endpoint naming scheme and buffering for messages sent between endpoints. It also allows for messages to be multicast to multiple endpoints.
The above app, which allows for synchronized video playback and messaging, is a somewhat contrived example, although one can see the potential for remote training for example, but one can easily see the utility of the service for turn by turn gaming or mobile MMORPG.
Read more about Project Hawaii at Microsoft Research here.