Microsoft Build 2018 Announcements & Releases
We’ve been tracking all of Microsoft’s big announcements from the first day of their annual conference, Build 2018 Here are just a few of the many topics Microsoft has touched on today. Stay tuned for more updates as the conference continues on May 7-9.
- Smart Drones: Microsoft and Chinese drone manufacturer DJI announced a new partnership that aims to bring more of Microsoft’s machine learning smarts to commercial drones. The two companies also plan to offer new commercial drone solutions using Azure IoT Edge and related AI technologies for verticals like agriculture, construction, and public safety.
- Microsoft Graph: Microsoft is making additions to Microsoft Graph, a developer platform that connects multiple services and devices, (e.g., an API platform used to connect to the data that drives productivity.) Though it is not clear what the full potential of the platform is, it is clear that MS is determined to get developers on board.
- Project Ink Analysis: The Project Ink Analysis is a tool designed to make sense of digital writing. Users can clean up chicken scratch handwriting and translate from 67 different languages, beneficial for Surface Pen users looking to give their digital writing a more professional look.
- Project Kinect for Azure: MS brags that Project Kinect for Azure is the most powerful sensor kit with spatial human and object understanding. The project would combine the depth sensor from Kinect with Azure AI services which could help developers make devices that will be more precise with less power consumption.
- Alexa & Cortana: Microsoft demonstrated how the integration between Cortana and Alexa will work and launched a new website for developers interested receiving more info and news on the C&A integration going forward. Microsoft’s goal is to “make it possible for [their] customers to get the most out of their personal assistants—[and] not be bound to some walled garden,” according to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.
- AI & Machine Learning: Microsoft is putting a lot of emphasis on its AI and machine learning services, including a unified speech service that will combine speech recognition service, text-to-speech API, customized voice models, and translation service. Microsoft 365 will also have new tools, including Windows Machine Learning, a platform that will help developers create machine learning models in the intelligent cloud.
- Technology Accessibility: The company announced a commitment of $25 million for a five-year AI for Accessibility Project, making technology more accessible to people with disabilities. Seed grants will be given to developers, universities, inventors, and NGOs, in order to create solutions and new opportunities for people with disabilities.
- Mixed Reality Tools: An extension of mixed reality tools, like Microsoft Layout lets people design and visualize real spaces in either Microsoft HoloLens or a VR headset. Microsoft Remote Assist is a HoloLens app that will allow customers to collaborate securely using heads-up, hands-free video calls from their own separate computers.
- Azure IoT: MS will be open sourcing their Azure IoT Edge Runtime, allowing customers to modify, debug, and have more transparency and control for edge applications. Custom Vision will run on Azure IoT edge, bringing Azure Cognitive Service for the vision to the edge in order for devices on the edge to make decisions and take action without a cloud connection.
- Meeting Room: Microsoft is working on a prototype hardware that will make meetings a lot easier, mainly through a 360-degree camera and microphone that can detect anyone in a meeting room, greet them, and transcribe exactly what they say, regardless of language. The company is also using AI tools to take what is said in a meeting and act upon it, like automatically setting up notifications in Microsoft Teams.
May 8, 2018 Update:
Though Day Two of the Build conference may not be as thrilling as the first, Microsoft took time today to flesh out topics and demonstrations from day one. Here are some more updates from Build 2018:
- Windows Store: as an attempt to attract new developers, Microsoft is changing its Windows Store policies to allow developers to keep 95 percent of the revenue from their apps. This 95 percent cap will only be available on consumer apps, not games, and will apply to apps for Windows 10, Windows Mixed Reality, Windows Phone, and Surface Hub.
- Microsoft Pay: Microsoft is updating its digital wallet service, Microsoft Pay into Outlook. This means that when a company sends you an invoice in an email and you are using Outlook to read it, you can pay that bill directly without needing to leave Outlook and open a different app or service. Stripe (using Stripe Connect) and Braintree will be among the payment processors powering the service, and Zuora, FreshBooks, Intuit, Invoice2Go, Sage, Wave, and Xero will be among the billing and invoicing services that will initially be using the feature.
- Windows 10 Redstone 5 Update: The next Windows 10 update, scheduled for release this fall, is currently in testing. Some features touched upon at Build include Microsoft Sets, a universal tab system that spans all the apps on your computer as well as the internet. For example, all website tabs on Edge would be condensed into a single tab, next to your Word documents or Office apps, in one single window. Because of this change, the Alt-Tab feature will also change, so instead of tabbing between apps, it would allow Windows 10 users to switch between tabs within the Sets feature.
- Visual Studio Live Share: now regardless of what app is being built, or what language or operating system used, Live Share allows collaboration across multiple devices and platforms. Users can edit and debug together in real time, emphasizing Microsoft’s shift toward open-source collaboration. Developers can see when their colleagues are typing, no matter which platform they are on. All developers in a Live Share session can stay within their preferred environments. Users can also view web apps and databases without exposing ports to the internet.
- Project Brainwave: Though it was announced as a new architecture for deep neural processing over a year ago, a preview of Project Brainwave is now available on Azure and on the edge. This project will make Azure the fastest cloud running real-time AI with full integration with Azure Machine Learning. Project Brainwave is also in development for Azure Stack and Azure Data Box. Microsoft is attaching the FPGAs right to its overall data center network, which allows them to become something akin to hardware microservices.
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