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For help using Microsoft’s assistive technology, DAD has the answers

Globally, more than 1 billion people are living with a disability, yet just one in 10 people has access to assistive technology, according to the World Health Organization 

a man uses a smart phoneOver the years, Microsoft has been building inclusion into its products and services. And to help everyone get the most from accessibility resources, the company has the Disability Answer Desk, or DAD. It is free, 24/7 technical support from Microsoft experts trained in assistive technologies.   

“Our goal is to make the Disability Answer Desk a best-in-class support team for customers with disabilities and to use feedback to drive greater accessibility across our engineering teams,” says Sean Marihughan accessibility escalation engineer at Microsoft. 

Technology has the power to strengthen opportunities for everyone, but it must be intuitive to have an impact. DAD gives customers the technical support they need while gathering critical feedback to improve the assistive features in products.  

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a man in a wheelchair views his computer monitorsEach year, DAD experts field about 150,000 inquiries, assisting customers with products such as Office 365, Xbox, Windows and Skype, as well as third-party assistive technologies, such as screen readers, screen magnifiers, and speech recognition software.   

Microsoft has also established an Enterprise Disability Answer Desk, or eDAD, that supports enterprise customers. Available globally as a free service in English, eDAD also reports customer feedback to specific product teams so they can quickly resolve issues.   

“With eDAD, we have the potential to empower people with disabilities to achieve more at work and schooland enable organizations to provide more accessible experiences to their employees and customers,” says Crystal Jones, also an accessibility escalation engineer at Microsoft.  

Since introducing DAD in 2012, Microsoft has extended the service to customers in 11 English-speaking countries: the US, UK, South Africa, Ireland, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Canada, Australia, and India. The service has been rolled out to French and Spanish-speaking countries, including France, Belgium, Canada, Mexico, and Spain. 

With eDAD, we have the potential to empower people with disabilities to achieve more at work and school—and enable organizations to provide more accessible experiences to their employees and customers.
Crystal Jones

Over the years, Microsoft has gradually expanded the channels for accessing the service. DAD is available through 24/7 chat service and on Twitter by sending a direct message to @MSFTEnable 

DAD also has American Sign Language support through videophone. People who are blind or have low vision can use Be My Eyes, a free app that connects customers through live video calls 

DAD is among a growing number of efforts by Microsoft to empower people with disabilities and create a more inclusive work environment.  

For more on these innovations and accessibility initiatives at Microsoft, visit microsoft.com/en-us/accessibilityAnd follow @MSFTIssues on Twitter. 

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Graduate Molly Paris proves the power of inclusive technology

In 2018, the team at the Microsoft Store in Jacksonville, FL, met a young lady that forever changed them. Her name is Molly, and she is a remarkable example of ingenuity, grit and gusto.

At the age of two, Molly’s parents learned that she was born with a neuro-developmental disorder called Rett Syndrome, a rare condition which, over time, has severely impacted her mobility and her ability to speak. But as Molly will be the first to tell you, the disorder has not impacted her interminable spirit or her intense desire to empower those around her.

With the support of her family, Molly found The Foundation Academy, a school that was able to accommodate her needs and has spent her academic career there.

Over the years, the Microsoft team has grown close to Molly and her mother, Robin. They’ve helped her with a number of projects, including one where she hacked the Xbox Adaptive Controller to make a dancing wheelchair. The team was happy to jump in to support her big ideas because it’s clear when you meet Molly that she is going to do great things for the world.

Last week, we had the honor of watching Molly give her Valedictorian speech at her graduation from The Foundation Academy. She has blossomed into a curious developer, eager to pursue a career in computer science and engineering, so she can one day develop new technologies to empower herself and others like her.

But the story doesn’t end there because, after all, graduation is just the beginning of a lifetime of learning and potential.

Video for Celebrating Molly, a Changemaker in inclusive technology

Our graduation caps are off to you, Molly, your family and the team at The Foundation Academy!

Share your story or a story about another Changemaker in education, submit here through the Microsoft Education blog.

To discover everything Microsoft has to offer and how we can work with you, please visit your local Microsoft Store.

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‘ELEAGUE Gears Summer Series: The Bonds and Betrayals of Brotherhood’ debuts June 14

Last month, Xbox and ELEAGUE announced the “ELEAGUE Gears Summer Series: The Bonds and Betrayals of Brotherhood” – a six-part event series focused on the stories and players behind the world of Gears Esports. During our special E3 Edition of Inside Xbox on June 10, we teased the show with a two-minute trailer. If this left you wanting more, you’re in luck! The first episode will debut on TBS tomorrow, Friday, June 14, at 11 pm ET/8 apm PT.

 

With one-hour long episodes, the series will provide an unprecedented look into the uniquely passionate world of Gears Esports through the lens of six of the most well-known professional players, including Gilbert ‘Xplosive’ Rojo and Danny ‘Identivez’ Santillana. The six episodes will explore each player’s intense connection to the game and each other as they navigate to become the best players in the world on Gears 5 Escalation 2.0, the mode designed specifically for Gears Esports.

In addition to the TBS episodes, ELEAGUE will host Gears 5’s first-ever esports tournament, with new Versus gameplay, from July 13-14 (Saturday to Sunday), live on Twitch and the premium live sports streaming service B/R Live. The ELEAGUE Gears Summer Series tournament will feature eight of the world’s top teams – many of which will star in the TBS series – competing live within ELEAGUE Arena at Turner Studios in Atlanta. The final two episodes of the TBS programming will showcase the most exciting moments from the live tournament.

To stay updated, follow @EsportsGears on Twitter. Be sure to also check out ELEAGUE’s channels; @ELEAGUETV and www.ELEAGUE.com.

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How ‘alfred’ AI solution helps thyssenkrupp Materials Services optimize its logistics network

Alfred Krupp founded his company in 1811. Now, over 200 years later, he is the namesake and inspiration for an artificial intelligence solution built by thyssenkrupp Materials Services (tkMX), one of Germany-based thyssenkrupp AG’s strategic business areas – and the largest materials distributor and service provider in the western world.

The “alfred” AI solution, powered by Microsoft Azure, helps the company analyze and process more than two million orders per year and better serve its 250,000 global customers.

Though alfred has been in place for just under a year, the solution is already helping tkMX optimize its logistics network – allocating materials to the right location much faster, minimizing transport volume and enhancing usage of the company’s transport capacity.

Axel Berger, head of the Digital Transformation Office, thyssenkrupp Materials Services.
Axel Berger, head of the Digital Transformation Office, thyssenkrupp Materials Services.

Transform caught up with Axel Berger, head of digital transformation at tkMX, to hear more about how alfred is changing the business.

TRANSFORM: Tell me about alfred and why tkMX developed it. What business challenges were you facing?

AXEL BERGER: We are a wholesaler, so data insights and data algorithms are possibly one of the strongest levers we have to improve our business. We had a lot of data that we weren’t using before, for three main reasons.

First, we didn’t really have the expertise to work on specific data science topics – we had the data, but it wasn’t always available. Second, data quality was an issue. And third, we lacked the technology to store data in different formats to use it and make it available in one central location on a massive scale. We also lacked the related tools to really analyze it, visualize it and finally, build algorithms out of it that could be deployed in different scenarios.

There are many possible use cases for wholesalers, and it took us a long time to pinpoint the use case that we should implement first. The major topic we’ve focused on is network optimization. How can we optimize, for example, transport costs or our supply network? How can we reduce the stock that is delivered from A to B without sacrificing our service levels? So the first project that we’ve worked on is network simulations within our German trade network.

It’s important to note that alfred is growing through its use cases. We didn’t create a huge global platform that could do everything. The first use case requires a specific amount of data, computing power and certain tools. But with additional use cases that we are now implementing, alfred is growing.

thyssenkrupp Material Services' alfred AI solution.
thyssenkrupp Material Services’ alfred AI solution.

TRANSFORM: I understand you developed alfred internally. Can you tell us a little about that?

BERGER: Alfred came to life in early 2018. The biggest challenge was definitely data availability. You can have the greatest technology, the best tools, but the biggest challenge is to get quality data. Another challenge is to have the domain knowledge, the expertise in the specific topic to really make it relevant.

Everybody’s thinking that if you just use data and artificial intelligence, in the end this artificial intelligence will give you the insights that you don’t know yet. But that’s not happening. It’s about having the right data of the right quality, the expertise and the domain knowledge on a specific topic, and the technology to run it. Technology is the easy part, because nowadays there is someone like Microsoft with the technology. But to bring data and domain knowledge into the project and to understand the use case and the questions you are trying to answer, that is the hardest part.

TRANSFORM: Can you walk me through what alfred might do over the course of one day?

BERGER: There are so many things that alfred can do! Alfred dynamically tells us from which site we should ship which material to which customer. Alfred optimizes our stock levels. Alfred tells us what the perfect price for a specific customer for a specific product is. Alfred visualizes and tells us which customers are profitable, and which customers are not.

Alfred can help us build a predictive maintenance model for our machinery, and tell us which machine is about to break. Alfred also helps us to optimize our supply network in terms of physical sites – where should we open the next site or close it down, and which materials should be subbed somewhere else. It helps us to get better purchase prices because it helps us in negotiations and the bundling of materials that we want to purchase. These are all current or potential use cases.

TRANSFORM: I understand it’s still evolving, but what is the biggest benefit alfred has had on your business?

BERGER: We handed over decision-making to alfred (a machine) that relies on data. One of the taglines that we use for alfred is “intelligence in each transaction,” which means that we want to build decision engines. Alfred already delivered the first decision engine: The system tells us from which location the customer is to be supplied – taking into account all relevant frame data. That was our first decision engine, you could say.

TRANSFORM: What has been the employee reaction to alfred? Have they embraced alfred, or was there some resistance early on?

BERGER: People weren’t resistant to alfred, because right away we could show them how alfred would help them in their daily work, and the benefits we’d gain. With the use case we’ve been working on, alfred doesn’t imply any layoffs or redundancies. It is purely optimizing the way we are working, and helping to enhance the impact our employees are driving. So alfred is seen positively.

Employees collaborate in a thyssenkrupp Materials Services warehouse.
All company data can be combined on one platform with alfred.

TRANSFORM: Did you do any training to prepare employees for alfred?

BERGER: Yes, absolutely. We helped them, trained them, involved them in the process very early. We trained them in the tools. What we are also planning is to deploy data labs, small versions of alfred, so people working on a specific data problem can use alfred to solve their own problems with just a push of the button. We teach them how to do this – how to use Microsoft Power BI, for example, to visualize their own data. That helped a lot because they started to work with data and to better understand what it’s all about and how it can be utilized.

TRANSFORM: How else has alfred helped your employees achieve more and optimized their work?

BERGER: Alfred has helped employees by enabling them to simulate tkMX’s network setup, which was extremely difficult before because our network is extremely complex. It has helped with data availability – the employees have much more data that they can now access themselves, without involving anybody from data warehousing. And obviously by increasing data transparency.

TRANSFORM: Have new roles or opportunities opened up to support alfred?

BERGER: Yes, of course. Roles like data engineering, data architecture, data science, solution designers – these are all new roles that we staff now.

TRANSFORM: What advice would you give other companies that are considering launching an AI initiative?

BERGER: I’d like to shift the focus away from the buzzword “AI” and better discuss what’s behind it. I don’t believe that there is an artificial intelligence as such. We have focused algorithms.

In other words, what I would recommend is to calm down and don’t be afraid of AI, because the methods are 60 years old. What has changed are the opportunities that advanced technologies such as cloud and edge computing provide and the pace at which they evolve. So, businesses need to get used to these new technologies, and use technology that is easy to handle – like Microsoft Azure. With Azure we can quickly launch applications that can be used for data aggregation, manipulation and analysis with the click of a button, with only a few people in the beginning.

To start, I would recommend taking data, searching for your first use cases, and just building them without engineering them forever. Clarify the questions you want to answer. Don’t believe in overarching algorithms that will solve the problem of finding the question, the use case. Because otherwise everybody is expecting results for something that you don’t even know is a problem.

tkMX infographicTRANSFORM: Based on your experience, what concerns or rewards do you see for society as AI becomes more ubiquitous?

BERGER: Again, I would say calm down and get in touch with the methods and technologies behind AI. People are fearing things they don’t know. If you get in touch with it and understand what’s really behind AI, then I think it’s easier for people to understand that we are far away from real artificial intelligence. We see specific use cases, specific technologies to solve specific problems, but nothing like a mastermind.

It’s important to talk about AI and engage in the public debate, because with the evolving technology around machine learning and AI, there are questions to answer, including both ethical and legal questions. For example, the much-used example of an autonomous car. How do we cope as we give more and more autonomy and decision-making capacity to machines?

I studied mechatronics some 25 years ago. With mechatronics you were already talking about cyber-physical systems and programming and automizing machines. So IoT is nothing new. It’s just the technology has evolved and that gives us new opportunities.

When you look at artificial intelligence, the methodologies are out of the 1940s, 1950s – neural networks, for example. It’s nothing new. It’s all about cheaper storage, more computing power and better connectivity, but also about standardization and harmonization of data. And if you come back to that point, you realize it’s feasible to cope with it, because we’ve been able to cope with it for many years.

A thyssenkrupp truck travels on a highway.
AI will help thyssenkrupp Materials Services efficiently manage their logistics network.

TRANSFORM: You talked about what alfred is doing now. In 10 years, where do you want the platform to be?

BERGER: Technology is evolving so fast, it’s hard to foresee. Do you know the saying, ‘The appetite comes with eating’? It’s like when you’re working on a project, you’re finding new data insights, new data points that give you the motivation to go to the next step. So I am convinced there will be so many more use cases in the future that I cannot foresee right now.

I will learn, we all will learn, the machine will learn. We will get more and more data created out of the data that we already have – other data sources, third-party data and so forth. So right now, I cannot foresee all the use cases we will see in the future. We will work under one paradigm, which is ‘Intelligence in each transaction’. Over time alfred will also take decisions in our ERP system automatically. In average transactions that we do, we would like to have more intelligence, and alfred will help us with that.

TRANSFORM: Is there anything you would like to add?

BERGER: I’m a great believer in removing the mystique of buzzwords like AI and focusing on what’s behind it instead – helping people and companies understand the technologies and methods that help us make our businesses as well as our personal lives easier and better.

It’s part of my role as the CDO, but I also believe that digitalization is a bunch of buzzwords. If you ask someone at a conference what you really mean by digitalization, most people will get very thin in their answers. Why?

Because they don’t really know, because they are looking at digitalization from a huge height. And I think if you really want to go beyond the buzzwords, you really need to go into the use cases and the business, and you really need to redefine the opportunities. So I am trying hard to get out of these buzzwords and really get down to the use cases.

Top photo: thyssenkrupp Materials Services receives around 14 million order items annually. With alfred, these can be efficiently processed and analyzed. (All photos courtesy of thyssenkrupp Materials Services)

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Microsoft at MWC Barcelona: Introducing Microsoft HoloLens 2

This evening at a press event to kickoff MWC Barcelona, I had the pleasure of joining CEO Satya Nadella and Technical Fellow Alex Kipman onstage to talk in depth about Microsoft’s worldview for the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge.

As part of today’s press event, we also introduced the world to HoloLens 2.

YouTube Video

This is a tremendously exciting time for Microsoft, our partners, our customers, the computing industry and indeed the world. The virtually limitless computing power and capability of the cloud combined with increasingly intelligent and perceptive edge devices embedded throughout the physical world create experiences we could only imagine a few short years ago.

When intelligent cloud and intelligent edge experiences are infused with mixed reality, we have a framework for achieving amazing things and empowering even more people.

Today represents an important milestone for Microsoft. This moment captures the very best efforts and passion of numerous teams spanning Azure, HoloLens, Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Devices — this truly is a moment where the sum is greater than the parts. From cutting-edge hardware design to mixed reality-infused cloud services, today’s announcements represent the collective work of many teams. And none of this would be possible without our passionate community of customers, partners and developers.

On behalf of everyone on the team, it is my privilege to introduce you to HoloLens 2 and all the announcements we made today to kick off MWC Barcelona.

Introducing HoloLens 2

Side view of sleek black HoloLens 2

Since the release of HoloLens in 2016 we have seen mixed reality transform the way work gets done. We have unlocked super-powers for hundreds of thousands of people who go to work every day. From construction sites to factory floors, from operating rooms to classrooms, HoloLens is changing how we work, learn, communicate and get things done.

We are entering a new era of computing, one in which the digital world goes beyond two-dimensional screens and enters the three-dimensional world. This new collaborative computing era will empower us all to achieve more, break boundaries and work together with greater ease and immediacy in 3D.

Today, we are proud to introduce the world to Microsoft HoloLens 2.

Our customers asked us to focus on three key areas to make HoloLens even better. They wanted HoloLens 2 to be even more immersive and more comfortable, and to accelerate the time-to-value.

Immersion is greatly enhanced by advancements across the board, including in the visual display system, making holograms even more vibrant and realistic. We have more than doubled the field of view in HoloLens 2, while maintaining the industry-leading holographic density of 47 pixels per degree of sight. HoloLens 2 contains a new display system that enables us to achieve these significant advances in performance at low power. We have also completely refreshed the way you interact with holograms in HoloLens 2. Taking advantage of our new time-of-flight depth sensor, combined with built-in AI and semantic understanding, HoloLens 2 enables direct manipulation of holograms with the same instinctual interactions you’d use with physical objects in the real world. In addition to the improvements in the display engine and direct manipulation of holograms, HoloLens 2 contains eye-tracking sensors that make interacting with holograms even more natural. You can log in with Windows Hello enterprise-grade authentication through iris recognition, making it easy for multiple people to quickly and securely share the device.

Comfort is enhanced by a more balanced center of gravity, the use of light carbon-fiber material and a new mechanism for donning the device without readjusting. We’ve improved the thermal management with new vapor chamber technology and accounted for the wide physiological variability in the size and shape of human heads by designing HoloLens 2 to comfortably adjust and fit almost anyone. The new dial-in fit system makes it comfortable to wear for hours on end, and you can keep your glasses on because HoloLens 2 adapts to you by sliding right over them. When it’s time to step out of mixed reality, flip the visor up and switch tasks in seconds. Together, these enhancements have more than tripled the measured comfort and ergonomics of the device.

Time-to-value is accelerated by Microsoft mixed reality applications like Dynamics 365 Remote Assist, Dynamics 365 Layout and the new Dynamics 365 Guides applications. In addition to the in-box value, our ecosystem of mixed reality partners provides a broad range of offerings built on HoloLens that deliver value across a range of industries and use cases. This partner ecosystem is being supplemented by a new wave of mixed reality entrepreneurs who are realizing the potential of devices like HoloLens 2 and the Azure services that give them the spatial, speech and vision intelligence needed for mixed reality, plus battle-tested cloud services for storage, security and application insights.

Building on the unique capabilities of the original HoloLens, HoloLens 2 is the ultimate intelligent edge device. And when coupled with existing and new Azure services, HoloLens 2 becomes even more capable, right out of the box.

HoloLens 2 will be available this year at a price of $3,500. Bundles including Dynamics 365 Remote Assist start at $125/month. HoloLens 2 will be initially available in the United States, Japan, China, Germany, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Australia and New Zealand. Customers can preorder HoloLens 2 starting today at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/hololens/buy.

In addition to HoloLens 2, we were also excited to make the following announcements at MWC Barcelona.

 Azure Kinect Developer Kit (DK)

Front and side view of compact silver Azure Kinect DK device

The Azure Kinect DK is a developer kit that combines our industry-leading AI sensors in a single device. At its core is the time-of-flight depth sensor we developed for HoloLens 2, high-def RGB camera and a 7-microphone circular array that will enable development of advanced computer vision and speech solutions with Azure. It enables solutions that don’t just sense but understand the world — people, places, things around it. A good example of such a solution in the healthcare space is Ocuvera, which is using this technology to prevent patients from falling in hospitals. Every year in the U.S. alone, over 1 million hospital patients fall each year, and 11,000 of those falls are fatal. With Azure Kinect, the environmental precursors to a fall can be determined and a nurse notified to get to patients before they fall. Initially available in the U.S. and China, the Azure Kinect DK is available for preorder today at $399. Visit Azure.com/Kinect for more info.

Dynamics 365 Guides

When we announced Dynamics 365 Remote Assist and Dynamics 365 Layout on October 1, we talked about them as the “first” of our mixed reality applications for HoloLens.

Today, we are proud to announce our latest offering: Microsoft Dynamics 365 Guides.

Dynamics 365 Guides is a new mixed reality app that empowers employees to learn by doing. Guides enhances learning with step-by-step instructions that guide employees to the tools and parts they need and how to use them in real work situations. In addition to the experience of using Guides on HoloLens, a Guides PC app makes it easy to create interactive content, attach photos and videos, import 3D models and customize training to turn institutional knowledge into a repeatable learning tool.

This application will help minimize downtime and increase efficiency for mission-critical equipment and processes and becomes the third Dynamics 365 application that will work on both the previous generation of HoloLens and the new HoloLens 2.

Dynamics 365 Guides is available in preview starting today.

Man wearing HoloLens 2 consults a hologram of a guide as he works on machinery

Azure Mixed Reality Services

Today we also announced two new Azure mixed reality services. These services are designed to help every developer and every business build cross-platform, contextual and enterprise-grade mixed reality applications.

 Azure Spatial Anchors enables businesses and developers to create mixed reality apps that map, designate and recall precise points of interest that are accessible across HoloLens, iOS and Android devices. These precise points of interest enable a range of scenarios, from shared mixed reality experiences to wayfinding across connected places. We’re already seeing this service help our customers work and learn with greater speed and ease in manufacturing, architecture, medical education and more.

Azure Remote Rendering helps people experience 3D without compromise to fuel better, faster decisions. Today, to interact with high-quality 3D models on mobile devices and mixed reality headsets, you often need to “decimate,” or simplify, 3D models to run on target hardware. But in scenarios like design reviews and medical planning, every detail matters, and simplifying assets can result in a loss of important detail that is needed for key decisions. This service will render high-quality 3D content in the cloud and stream it to edge devices, all in real time, with every detail intact.

Azure Spatial Anchors is in public preview as of today. Azure Remote Rendering is now in private preview in advance of its public preview.

Microsoft HoloLens Customization Program

HoloLens is being used in a variety of challenging environments, from construction sites and operating rooms to the International Space Station. HoloLens has passed the basic impact tests from several protective eyewear standards used in North America and Europe. It has been tested and found to conform to the basic impact protection requirements of ANSI Z87.1, CSA Z94.3 and EN 166. With HoloLens 2 we’re introducing the Microsoft HoloLens Customization Program to enable customers and partners to customize HoloLens 2 to fit their environmental needs.

The first to take advantage of the HoloLens Customization Program is our long-standing HoloLens partner Trimble, which last year announced Trimble Connect for HoloLens along with a new hard hat solution that improves the utility of mixed reality for practical field applications. Today it announced the Trimble XR10 with Microsoft HoloLens 2, a new wearable hard hat device that enables workers in safety-controlled environments to access holographic information on the worksite.

Hard hat incorporates HoloLens 2

Open principles

Finally, as we closed things out, Alex Kipman articulated a set of principles around our open approach with the mixed reality ecosystem.

We believe that for an ecosystem to truly thrive there should be no barriers to innovation or customer choice.

To that end, Alex described how HoloLens embraces the principles of open stores, open browsers and open developer platforms.

To illustrate our dedication to these principles, we announced that our friends at Mozilla are bringing a prototype of the Firefox Reality browser to HoloLens 2, demonstrating our commitment to openness and the immersive web. Alex was also joined by Tim Sweeney, founder and CEO of Epic Games, who announced that Unreal Engine 4 support is coming to HoloLens.

In the coming months we will have more announcements and details to share. We look forward to continuing this journey with you all.

Julia

Microsoft announces quarterly dividend

REDMOND, Wash. — June 12, 2019 — Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday announced that its board of directors declared a quarterly dividend of $0.46 per share. The dividend is payable Sept. 12, 2019, to shareholders of record on Aug. 15, 2019. The ex-dividend date will be Aug. 14, 2019.

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

For more information, financial analysts and investors only:

Investor Relations, Microsoft, (425) 706-4400

For more information, press only:

Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications, (425) 638-7777, rrt@we-worldwide.com

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at https://news.microsoft.com. Web links, telephone numbers, and titles were correct at time of publication, but may since have changed. Shareholder and financial information is available at http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/investor.

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Microsoft announces ICFJ immersive storytelling grantee winners

In January 2019, we launched our journalism grant partnership with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ). Our first recipients are already midway through their data journalism training and now I’m thrilled to introduce the recipients of the second phase of our program.   

Kelechukwu Iruoma and Ruth Olorounbi comprise a team investigating the toxic effects of oil spillage in Ogoniland, Nigeria, which has led to poisoned farmlands and compromised reproductive health. An estimated 13 million barrels of oil have been spilled since 1958: This makes an annual average 240,000 barrels of crude in the Niger delta, destroying the local livelihood and the very population’s survival. An award-winning investigative freelance journalist, Iruoma covers environment, education, agriculture and health in Nigeria. He is a reporting fellow of ICFJ and International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), and has been trained by the organizations as Premium Times Center for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), Wole Soyinka Center for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) and Global Rights Nigeria. Ruth HeadshotIruoma headshot

His reporting partner Olurounbi is the business editor at Per Second News, a U.S.-based organization. The Wole Soyinka Female Leadership and ICIR fellow has covered development and human right issues, business, and agriculture for more than 10 years. When shes not writing, the award-winning journalist mentors young girls in her local community.  

The second project is one man’s cultural retrospective on a country’s re-emergence to a superpower and tourist destination. Philip Cunningham’s story will take him across the globe, about 7,000 miles from his New York base to Beijing. A seasoned broadcast reporter, producer and documentary filmmaker who started as a Chinese history researcher and tour guide in China, he has worked with outlets like PBS, ABC, NBC, BBC, NHK and CCTV and has witnessed key events like the 1989 Tiananmen uprising, the 1999 anti-U.S. demonstrations, and the 2008 Olympics. His goal is to create an immersive travel odyssey of Beijing across time and space that’s at once personal and political, cultural and historical. In addition to plumbing his photo and video archive, a past Nieman Fellow and Fulbright scholar, Cunningham plans to revisit key locations — some of which have changed beyond recognition. Since his first visit in 1983, not only has China changed radically, but so has journalism and the toolkits for a documentarian. A student’s retelling of one of his own stories inspired Cunningham to explore how the latest technologies might enrich the age-old art of storytelling.  Headshot of Cunningham

Two very different stories, both told and amplified through immersive storytelling.  

Supporting these three journalists has been part of our larger effort to help newsrooms and journalists deliver impactful stories and empower them through technology to find, create, and share information in unprecedented ways. We operate on the industry and individual level: be it hosting workshops at NICAR in southern California and the upcoming GEN Summit in Athens, working directly with newsrooms like the AP or Recode or assisting individuals like our ICFJ grant recipients, our goal is help journalism in what is our shared values: the pursuit of truth so that people and communities can make the best decisions in their daily lives to guide their future sustainability. 

We look forward to sharing stories on what the ICFJ grantees are learning and how they are affecting change in these communities. Please visit ICFJ to see and support all the tremendous projects it is undertaking–and while you’re at it, wish the center a happy 35th anniversary. 

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Microsoft’s campus, then and now, in 10 photos

Redmond, Washington, has been home to Microsoft’s 500-acre main campus since 1986. This past January, demolition began on a multi-year campus remodel 

This project will result in 17 new buildings; 6.7 million square feet of renovated workspace; and $150 million in transportation infrastructure improvements, public spaces, sports fields and green spaces. The new campus will be a modern workspace that fosters a sense of community    

Click through the images below to look at how the campus has changed over the years. 

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Hack the Classroom is back and streaming live June 25 from ISTE in Philadelphia

The Hack is back! Hack the Classroom will be streaming live on the Microsoft Education Facebook channel from ISTE in Philadelphia–Tuesday, June 25th from 6:15 p.m. to 7:10 p.m. EST! After the Facebook event, we’ll be switching over to Twitter around 7:10 p.m. EST for a live Q&A with our presenters and studio audience.

  1. RSVP & join us Tuesday, June 25th from 6:15–7:10 p.m. EST on Facebook here. Please note: the livestream will kick-off from our Microsoft Education page, but we will add a direct link to the livestream on the event page as soon as we are streaming live on Tuesday, June 25th.
  2. Join us on the @MicrosoftEDU Twitter channel and ask our speakers your questions immediately after the Facebook livestream.

What’s it all about?

Hack the Classroom is a live, digital event devoted to changemakers in education and the passionate innovators driving student-centered learning. Join us and learn from educators who are integrating technology in order to better connect with and support students as they become active and engaged learners. These determined educators will generously share their techniques and philosophies for creating better student outcomes so that you can apply them in your own classroom the very next week! These events are interactive, so join, ask questions, share and connect with educators from all over the world. You can check out past events and see last year’s Hack the Classroom live from ISTE here.

Who’s in the live event this time?

This Hack the Classroom will focus on student-centered learning and how supporting students’ social and emotional well-being can improve all aspects of learning. During the live event, we’ll debut our next Changemaker story about Microsoft Innovative Educator, Samantha Skubal from Chicago, Illinois.

We will also be sharing stories from superstar students and teachers from the I Promise School in Akron, Ohio, who’ll share how they’ve embraced our free Hacking STEM lessons in their classrooms.

Tune in to see:

  • Jessica TozziI Promise School(Ohio, US), share how her school is empowering students through a focus on social-emotional learning.​
  • Samantha Skubal Sterling Morton District (Illinois, US), show how she is providing real-world, future-ready experiences through their Technology Internship Program. ​
  • Luis OliveiraMiddletown H.S. (Rhode Island, US), demonstrate how he is supporting autonomous learning for English Language Learners through Immersive Reader and Flipgrid​.
  • Jen PadernalDe La Salle University Night College(Philippines), provide her top tips for engaging students through a virtual classroom in Microsoft Teams. ​
  • Toney JacksonNellie K. Parker Elementary School(New Jersey, US), close us out again with another original poem that will leave you inspired.

RSVP now and tune in live on the Facebook event page.

Learn more about what you’ll see from Microsoft Education and our partners at ISTE 2019.

Receive an HTC participant badge and 500 points on our Educator Community. Once you’ve earned 1,000 points, you become a certified Microsoft Innovative Educator!

Mark your calendars and learn more about speakers at: http://aka.ms/htcspeakers.

Connect with us on Twitter @MicrosoftEDU and share your thoughts using #HackTheClassroom and #MicrosoftEDU.

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