Susan IbachTechnical Evangelist
Have you heard about Imagine Cup? This is the worldwide competition organized by Microsoft where students just like you use technology to try and solve some of the worlds problems. What matters to you? Could text recognition software on a windows phone help someone with dyslexia? Can we build a stronger First Nations community with Kinect sensors and cameras connecting different bands? Can you help your local food bank spread the word on what they need restocking on their shelves with an Azure service that can be accessed by phone applications or screen displays at the local grocery stores? Can we find an easier way to determine if water is safe to drink? Can we predict the spread of malaria through mosquitos so we can take preventive measures? The world is faced with so many problems, big and small, and we have a world of technology at our fingertips. Technology that in the past was only available in high end research labs is now accessible to all of us through smart phones and Kinect! YOU can use this incredible technology to solve a problem and this year, we’re going to shine the spotlight brighter than ever on Canadian students with our Canadian Imagine Cup!
It starts with your imagination, just take a problem and imagine how you could solve that problem. Next July, you might find yourself on a stage in Sydney, Australia sharing your problem and solution with students from around the world! Sound intimidating? It shouldn’t, honestly, these are students just like you! We’ll have a Canadian site up and running soon with all the details. For now check out Imagine Cup and learn more. Last year 400 students from 70 countries participated in the WorldWide Finals, this year Canada could be one of those countries. Teams who enter the Software Design Competition in Canada will first compete for the right to attend the Canadian finals in Toronto. In Toronto, they will present their projects on stage along with other top teams from across Canada, an incredible opportunity to showcase your idea, your solution on a national stage! At the Canadian finals , a panel of judges will be faced with the difficult task of selecting the top team. We will also select the top 3 entries in the Game Design: Phone competition to come to Toronto for the Canadian finals as well and compete for first place! Although not featured at the Canadian finals, there are other ways to compete: Game Design: XBOX/Windows and the IT Challenge where you complete a quiz, and a case study for a chance to enter the final round where you complete a virtual hands on lab challenge to win prizes of $3000, $4000, and $8000 USD. So many opportunities for you to show the world your idea! If you need some ideas, check out this video from some Australian innovators to get you in the mood, enter as a team, or as an individual, but start your engines, and get ready to show Canada and the world the power of Canadian students!
It's official! I have had my Windows Phone now for two weeks and it's been an adventure. First let me say that I came into this experience absolutely hating smart phones. I dislike that there are a million buttons and that you have to sort through useless stuff just to get to the one feature that you truly need. However, all it took was me setting up my phone to fall in love. That's right, love at first touch.
I've had to deal with several machines and this is the first time that putting in my SIM card and battery wasn't a fight to the death with flimsy plastic or simply blind trust. The back has a small button that allows a very strong backing to come out opening up the inside of the phone. Win - win scenario! Not only can I get to what I need without snapping off all my fingernails or being worried about cracking the backing but I can also know that my phone is safe and the internal components secure.
The setup itself was straight forward and user friendly. In some cases, it was even more user friendly than I had initially realized. I saved my contacts from my old phone to my SIM card and easily transferred them to my new phone. Here's where it got cool, my new phone sorted through the contacts on my phone and my current list of friends on Facebook and linked together accounts for the people that overlapped. Now I can open up my list of contacts and if I select one I have the option of calling, texting, emailing, and I see pertinent details from Facebook like their birthday or their current address.
At first I struggled with having so many tiles on the main page but once I realized that I could unpin the ones I didn't want and add the ones that I did it was incredibly simple to pin and unpin applications until I had a perfectly customized main page.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I don't have a data plan at the moment. So, while some of you are still reeling from the shock of that comment, let me note that that has almost not even been a concern! The wifi on this phone is fantastic and has made updating my phone pretty painless. Will I be getting a data plan? Definitely. Looking at all this phone can offer I would be crazy not to. It's worth it just to see how far this can go and how it can support me.
I've heard the Windows Phone described as a phone for first time smartphone users and I completely agree that it is pain free, easy to use, and quite possibly one of the prettiest phones I've ever laid eyes on (now with pink tiles :) ). But I can tell that the Windows Phone is more than that. It's quick, clean, and confusion free. With just a few days of playing around and exploring my options, I can't wait to take this device on the road and see what happens.
- Jessica Pellow
On October 7th I looked into the Future. I don't claim to have foresight powers, but Craig Mundy magically painted his vision with such realism that some of the panelists were left dumbfounded at his eloquence. The Chief Research and Strategy Officer of Microsoft presented a world where technology went from being a tool to being a helper. A world where doctors rely on the help of technology for diagnosis, as well as for the distribution thereof. A world where classes are given globally and laptops or slates add to the teaching environment rather than to the social networks. A world where everyone, regardless of their profession, gets to enjoy the help of their own STARK Enterprises J.A.R.V.I.S robot helper.
It is refreshing to see Microsoft focusing on social entrepreneuring fields, which seems to come from it's chairman. Mr. Mundie explained that before concentrating on his philanthropic efforts, Bill Gates guided Microsoft's research group into areas of social development as well as initiating talks with universities and their developments in these fields. It is up to Universities such as McGill to leverage the technology and indulge in health, education and communications research.
Among most of the hidden gems coming out of Microsoft's technologies is Kinect. This tool has seen the light mostly on the gaming sector, but it is slowly creeping its way into more relevant markets such as health. This technology is a stepping stone into the realm of possibilities of what can be done in Health. Entrepreneurs have always thought of simply linking people with video and voice. A doctor teleconferencing with a patient through Skype. Kinect takes the concept of telepresence to a completely different level. With Kinect the experience is enriched with gestures and reactions through movement and depth perception. It is easy to mention examples of monitoring critical patients and scenarios such as launching a 911 call when a patient is moving or shaking strangely and even to check whether they are being active enough, but perhaps the most impressive advantage is that all of that and more can be done for the price of $150.
Thanks to Microsoft's recent release of the Kinect SDK for windows, developers have the ability to produce a new set of services in many domains through more natural ways of interaction. Thus, decreasing the complexity for users and flattening out the usability learning curve.
I believe Kinect is the link between us and that New World Craig Mundie prophesized. Soon we will start seeing the ability to turn on the lights by voice or dimming them with a hand wave at the reach of everyone simply because the technology exists, it is affordable and Microsoft has given it to us on a silver platter!
If you would like to live the experience yourself, there is a transcription of Craig Mundie's panel at McGill University for you to read.
Oscar Guerrero - McGill University MSP
A couple of weeks ago I introduced the Mango App Challenge – in essence, a contest for you to develop and publish 2 Windows Phone apps to the Marketplace and in return we’d give you a free phone.
Well, so far the contest has gotten a lot of entries (but there’s still plenty of phones left to give) and I want to share with you some of the great winners so far.
Get it: Here
Price: $1.29 (Free trial)
So, do you think you can build a couple of apps and publish them by December 15? Then get started! Download the tools and, if Windows Phone is new to you, learn with free resources here!
Being an intern at Microsoft comes with exciting opportunities to learn, experience and be constantly exposed to the latest and greatest technology (aka Microsoft products). One of them being the Xbox Kinect. I’ll admit I wasn’t a keen video gamer prior to my internship, but now I am slightly addicted to Kinect – and for more reasons than one.
You literally are the controller. Simple as that… there are no controllers because you (your head, hands, feet and all) are in control of the game, providing a gaming experience that amazes the young and old. I always drag another intern to play with me in the office or pull in family and friends at home to show them how our avatar replicates our every move. I am still fascinated with how the Kinect sensor works to capture your movements… it makes it easier for me to set up the game and simply have fun. I first tried Kinect Adventures which includes simple games where you pop bubbles and plug leaks that always amuse 22 year old interns (like me) after a long day of work. Similar to roller coasters in amusement parks, the Kinect sensor takes random pictures of you while you play… you may be jumping up in the air or swinging your arms like crazy, but they are “profile-pic-worthy”.
I’m now addicted to Kinect Sports and pretty much can spend an hour playing volleyball, bowling, soccer (and boxing when no one else is around)… in a way, it compensates for not having a bowling alley at home. While I still go to the gym to work out, I find it easier to stay home or at work and get fit through these games… you work up a sweat without even knowing it!
While most people would see Kinect solely as an entertainment device, I learn a few months ago that these systems are contributing to the healthcare industry with its’ controller-free movement sensor technology. CLICK (Child Life Interactive Computers for Kids) is a program where Microsoft Canada works with the Children’s Miracle Network to provide young patients with technology during their stay in the hospital. Other than providing children with Kinect systems for gaming and connection to their family and friends, doctors are also using Kinect for operational and therapy purposes. At Sunnybrook hospital, surgeons have built an application using the Kinect technology to control, move, and adjust x-ray imaging with a wave of their hand – working with the imaging while they’re operating and being more efficient with time.
I know that when I apply for co-op terms through my school, I look for organizations that are making real contributions… not only are they commended on their reputation within the industry and their products or services, but also for the consistent involvement in the community. For me, knowing the real-world impact Microsoft is making outside of the gaming industry with this technology shows how we want to enhance lives with our innovative solutions and products, and lead the way for more advancements in healthcare.