Posted on Leave a comment

Now underway, Microsoft Business Applications Summit showcases new AI in Office 365, LinkedIn and Azure

Today, we welcome more than 3,500 customers and partners to our inaugural Microsoft Business Applications Summit in Seattle. Over the next two days, this community will come together with the engineering teams that build Dynamics 365, Power BI, PowerApps, and Microsoft Flow to connect, share, learn, and be the first to know where we’re going and what’s coming next across the Business Applications landscape.

This event is all about making the community more successful: enabling our customers to be more agile in their adoption of transformational technology, to help them grow and drive better experiences for their customers and employees, ultimately unlocking insights and actions from their data, to discover new opportunities and stay competitive.

Earlier this year we committed to delivering major product releases twice a year, to offer predictability around new capabilities and a clear roadmap to enable adoption of new technology for our customers and partners. Today we’re making available the October 2018 release notes, which details hundreds of new capabilities and features across all our Dynamics 365 applications and the Power Platform.

Infusing intelligence and AI throughout our applications, enabling new modern experiences with mixed reality and deeper integration across Office 365, LinkedIn, and Azure are key focus areas for the October 2018 release. We’ll be showing these new capabilities throughout the event. Some of the highlights include,

  • Dynamics 365 AI for Sales, the first of a new class of AI applications that delivers unique out-of-the-box insights by unifying data and infusing it with advanced intelligence to guide decisions and empower organizations to take informed actions. For Sales, in particular, we’ll show how AI can help salespeople prioritize their time to focus on deals that matter most, provide answers to the most common questions regarding the performance of sales teams, offer a detailed analysis of the sales pipeline, and surface insights that enable smarter coaching of sales teams.
  • Enhanced Azure IoT Central integration with Dynamics 365 for Field Service will enable proactive and predictive service. Building on previous integration, we’ll now support bi-directional flows. For example, sending commands from Field Service through IoT central to the device. The power of IoT is also extended to the technician with embedded IoT Central visuals and measurements within the Field Service mobile app.
  • New enterprise credit management, revenue recognition and new dual accounting currency capabilities in Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations to give businesses a real-time view of global financials. In addition, enhanced process-based integrations across Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations with Dynamics 365 for Field Services, Project Service Automation, and Talent, will give customers end to end visibility across departments.
  • Continued integration across Office 365 and LinkedIn, there are dozens of new features coming with the October release. For example,
    • Integration between Microsoft Teams, giving sellers access to Dynamics 365 for Sales within Teams for enhanced collaboration, while also taking advantage of the built-in Teams bot capability to provide new intelligence and self-service capabilities.
    • Deeper LinkedIn integration with Dynamics 365 for Marketing that brings interactions information for smarter segmentation and lead scoring.
    • Integration with Skype and video streaming within the interview process using Dynamics 365 for Talent to keep your hiring team in the know about candidates while also delivering a providing them with the ability to utilize Skype, video streaming, and submit mobile feedback.
  • We continue to enhance and add even more new capabilities to Power BI to enable everyone in an organization to work from the same data platform and deliver intuitive tools so teams can leverage vast quantities of data quickly to reach new and compelling insights. New preview features for Power BI will begin appearing in the service this month (July).
  • Mixed Reality is another area of investment with promising new scenarios from helping a frontline worker resolve an issue hands-free, to a retail store manager designing the best layout to make their products more appealing to customers. Earlier this year, we demonstrated the mixed reality Remote Assist application that would help our customers collaborate remotely with heads-up, hands-free video calling, image sharing, and mixed-reality annotations. We will show this technology in action at Business Applications Summit and share more details in the coming months.

The impact technology can have on businesses is evident. The connections between customers, products, people with data and intelligence at the center are creating feedback loops that enable businesses to transform. Microsoft is uniquely positioned in the market to enable that feedback loop and help our customers unlock their next opportunity.

I invite you to watch this morning’s keynote and learn more about Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform. You’ll see how Microsoft is using Dynamics 365 to modernize our hiring processes as well as hear from some of our customers including Polaris, Macdonald Miller, and Auto Glass/ Belron that are on the cutting edge of technology and will share how they are transforming their businesses.

Posted on Leave a comment

Americans with Disabilities Act anniversary an opportunity to recognize workplace accessibility and inclusive design

By Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Chief Accessibility Officer

On July 26 we will celebrate the 28th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA stands as one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation and prohibits discrimination while ensuring that people with disabilities have the same opportunities and rights as people without disabilities. It serves as a reminder of both where we have come from as well as the work left to be done.

Since its inception, the ADA has helped break down barriers for people with disabilities in built environments, provision of government services, communications, and employment. Despite a lot of great progress, after nearly 3 decades there is still much to be done, not only to level the playing field, but also to recognize (and seek out!) talented people with disabilities, skills and expertise that we need in our companies. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities hasn’t materially shifted in that time and remains nearly double that of people without disabilities. We are one of the many employers that has the power to influence that number. We take that responsibility seriously. Here are three things we are doing to drive it:

Breaking Down Barriers Through Technology
It’s never been more important to have a diverse and inclusive workforce including people with disabilities. Put simply, it helps us create better products that empower people with disabilities. When accessibility is done well, it becomes invaluable to daily life, the workplace, and play. It’s ubiquitous and easy to use. These values guide us, and I urge you to check out the following:

  • Accessibility built in by design. There is a wealth of goodness built into the core of our products – from Windows to Office and Xbox. Learning Tools, Dictate, Narrator, Translator, Color Blindness Filters, and more. We’ve created a simple one-stop-shop with our Accessibility Feature Sway which has every feature broken down by disability type and we update this and our new website www.microsoft.com/accessibility as new features become available. Do check it out and share!
  • If in doubt, ask. Remember we have a dedicated support team for people with disabilities using Microsoft products, or using accessibility features. The Disability Answer Desk is there 24×7, via chat, phone and in the USA, a dedicated ASL video line. Now in 11 markets and ready to help you get going with your technology
  • Your feedback is gold dust. We want to know what future you want, and technology you want to empower you. Tell us via our Accessibility UserVoice, Disability Answer Desk or tweet @MSFTEnable. Your feedback powers us.
  • The power of innovation. AI is opening doors for innovation for people with disabilities. Invaluable tools like Seeing AI, Microsoft Translator, and Helpicto are built leveraging our vision, knowledge and speech Cognitive Services APIs and so we were excited earlier this year to announce the AI for Accessibility program to open up these technologies to you to create. The application process is now open, and first batch of grant applications are in mid review. Literally can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Creating Forums for Inclusion
It isn’t enough to just talk about inclusion, we need to partner together to drive impact. There are many events we host and attend where this happens, but two have highlighted the appetite for more:

  • Microsoft Ability Summit. For the first time ever, we opened the doors to this internal event to the public and we were humbled by the results. Over the 8 years since we started the Ability Summit, attendance has grown from just 80 people in that first year, to 1,200 Microsoft employees, and 1,200 external guests over the two days. At the event, we demonstrated the latest in accessible technologies and attendees connected with the owners and drivers of those technologies. They also had the opportunity to engage with over 20 companies at an inclusive hiring job fair and heard from our very own CVP of Retail Stores, a panel of dignitaries and CEO Satya Nadella, who shared their thoughts on accessibility and disability. We were honored to include former Senator Tom Harkin who introduced the ADA into the Senate back in 1989 and underscored the need to break down barriers to get people with disabilities into the workforce. It’s our hope that by opening the event up more broadly we can share knowledge and accelerate the process for all organizations to build their programs, hire amazing talent, and reduce the unemployment rate.
A group of people sitting on stage

Creating a Region of Inclusion panel discussion at the 2018 Microsoft Ability Summit.

  • Disability:IN. Just last week in Las Vegas, 1,500 folks from over 160 corporate partners came together to discuss, share and take action on disability inclusion. Disability:IN (previously known as USBLN) is a corporate based NGO, Microsoft is a proud sponsor, and I’m a honoured to be chair of the board of directors. This organization has grown in numbers and strength in the past years and it speaks to the need, appetite and desire from so many companies to not only understand but drive the future of disability inclusion. During this event, over 130 rising leaders met with company leaders and many walked away with jobs and intern positions. We celebrated those that have achieved high scores on the Disability Employment Initiative (DEI), with many achieving 100% including ourselves. Also, technology was a HOT topic, and we dedicated one of the opening plenaries to showing and sharing the latest in accessible inclusive technology – and I had a blast showing Office 365, PowerPoint, Translator, PowerPoint Designer, Auto Alt-Text, Seeing AI and Xbox Adaptive Controller live on stage. It was clear from the room, amazing speakers and companies sharing their journeys, that this is a priority across corporate America, and how we partner together has never been more important.

[embedded content]

Supporting Inclusion in Action
Perhaps one of the best examples of making inclusion real is the Special Olympics. This year Microsoft was proud to be the Presenting Sponsor of the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games here in Seattle. With the theme “Rise with Us,” athletes challenged Seattle to make the 2018 games the most inclusive Special Olympics to date and honourary Chair Brad Smith, set the tone – asking Seattle to create a legacy of inclusion that lasts long after the games finish. As part of the event a job fair was held for athletes that included 16 companies including Microsoft. With 4,000 athletes and more than 12,000 volunteers (including 2,000+ Microsoft employees!) participating in the event, we are creating a legacy of inclusion in the region and a galvanizing force epitomized by local athlete Frannie Ronan – the youngest athlete in the games at just 8 years old who inspired us all at the opening ceremony and walked out with 2 silvers and 2 bronzes and a very big smile.

A big crowd of people in a field.

Opening ceremonies of the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle

A woman and a child smiling

Jenny Lay-Flurrie with Frannie Ronan at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle

In addition to celebrating the ADA, we recognize individuals and organizations all over the world are developing disability rights policies and programs under the United Nation Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and helping their communities raise awareness of the importance of accessibility and need for an inclusive culture. To make real progress, it will take collaboration from across government, industry, employers and individuals with disabilities to realize the vision of the ADA and reduce the unemployment rate for people with disabilities everywhere.

In the meantime, do explore what technology can do for you through the power of accessibility, keep us grounded in what you want to see going forward, and get involved in forums and supporting these incredible organisations that are going to power the future of disability inclusion.

Posted on Leave a comment

Microsoft celebrates promotion of employee Doug Pierson to USMCR Brigadier General

Doug Pierson is officially a one-star general officer in the United States Marine Corps Reserve (USMCR). He’s also a full-time Microsoft employee.

It’s an impressive accomplishment, made even more remarkable by the fact that the Marine Corps allows for only up to 60 brigadier generals at any time.

At his promotion ceremony, on July 11, 2018, at Microsoft’s main Redmond campus, Pierson was joined by family, friends, and colleagues eager to celebrate his achievement.

“I was truly humbled by how excited everyone was to help out and be part of the event one way or another,” Pierson said. “The response and support was overwhelming.”

For Microsoft, Brig. Gen. Pierson exemplifies why the company is committed to supporting employees who serve in the Reserve and National Guard—a commitment for which we were honored to receive the 2016 Extraordinary Employer Support Award from the U.S. Department of Defense.

Color Guard
Color Guard provided by Combat Logistics Battalion-23 was in attendance at Pierson’s ceremony.

The award reflects how we view our military members: Their contributions are undeniably valuable in a workforce that thrives by being inclusive of all backgrounds and experiences. And because National Guard and Reserve members rarely have access to the same resources as active duty and veteran service members, our support is built to help them thrive both at work and in service.

Even logistically, staying committed to both roles can become grueling. In Pierson’s case, the balancing act often means flying across the country on a Friday to spend the weekend training with the USMCR, then arriving home before dawn on Monday.

“But having a loving family and committed teammates who champion what you’re doing makes it all worth it,” Pierson said. “It reenergizes your spirit.”

As an area IT manager at Microsoft, Brig. Gen. Pierson can attest to the importance of that spirit as well as the accompanying mindset. By regularly applying the skills and values he learned as a Marine—leadership, perseverance, collaboration, and determination, among others—to his Microsoft work, he has attained success across the board.

And as Brig. Gen. Pierson continues to bring his best to everything he sets out to do for his country, his family, and Microsoft, we are proud to support him—and all who still serve.

Posted on Leave a comment

6 great ways to score big during Ultimate Game Sale

Ultimate Game Sale* is back! Now is the perfect time to save big and upgrade your slowing gaming PC, stock up top-rated PC games, or pick up that new gaming keyboard and mouse at Microsoft Store. While Ultimate Game Sale is our biggest ever, you need to jump all over these deals now because the sale ends July 30.

1. Save up to 50 percent on more than 100 top-rated games for Windows

Save big on select Windows 10 games such as “State of Decay 2,” “Sea of Thieves,” “Middle Earth: Shadow of War,” “Forza Motorsport 7,” “Zoo Tycoon: Ultimate Animal Collection” and more. There’s more than 100 popular PC games on sale during Ultimate Game Sale and many support Xbox Play Anywhere, meaning one purchase gets you the game on Xbox One and Windows 10 with cross save capability (PC hardware requirements may vary for games on Windows 10).

2. Save up to 60 percent on select gaming PCs and accessories

Screenshot of the Dell G3 15-inch gaming pc, with the lid open and screen facing to the right

Dell G3 15” Gaming PC

Discover great deals on more than 20 gaming PCs, keyboards, mice, headsets, and more including the following:

3. Save with great in-game deals on your favorite free-to-play games

Screenshots from three free-to-play games

Click on the image to see a video preview of these games

Looking to give your favorite game a boost or in need of a new game to keep you entertained this summer? With the return of the Ultimate Game Sale, you’ll find deals on select in-game content for your favorite free-to-play titles including “Cooking Fever,” “Nonstop Knight,” “Hill Climb Racing 2,” “Minecraft for Windows 10,” “Seekers Notes: Hidden Mysteries” and more.

4. Save up to $250 and take a giant leap into new worlds with select Windows Mixed Reality Headsets

Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset with Motion Controllers

Acer Windows Mixed Reality Headset with Motion Controllers

Ultimate Game Sale is a great time to save on select Windows Mixed Reality headsets with motion controllers from Acer and HP. Immerse yourself in a new reality that features a wide range of epic experiences. Select headsets with motion controllers start at $199 during the sale.

5. Save big on select Xbox games, consoles, accessories, and more

A trio of Xbox game covers: "NBA2K18," "State of Decay 2" and "Sea of Thieves"

If console gaming is more your speed, then Ultimate Game Sale is the perfect time to save up to 65 percent on more than 700 Xbox games including “Far Cry 5,” “PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS,” “Fortnite: Save the World Founders Pack” and more.

Not yet an Xbox Live Gold or Xbox Game Pass member? There’s also huge savings on Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass memberships during Ultimate Game Sale. Get 3 months of Xbox Live Gold for $10** or 3 months of Xbox Game Pass for $10**. Exclusions apply and promotional offers not valid for existing members.

6. Enter to win the Ultimate Doppelgamer Sweepstakes

A photo of a woman wearing a unicorn horn is next to a game avatar, with icons representing the prize of the Ultimate Doppelgamer Sweepstakes

Help us celebrate the return of Ultimate Game Sale with the Ultimate Doppelgamer Sweepstakes! Whether it’s an accidental resemblance or the result of hours of cosplay, we know there’s a game character you look like — your doppelgamer. Share that resemblance by uploading your pic on Instagram or Twitter (or both) with the tags #UltimateDoppelgamer and #Sweepstakes, between July 17-30 to be entered for a chance to win a trip to PAX West in Seattle****. Learn more and check out the full rules.

Ultimate Game Sale already is in full swing, so visit your local Microsoft Store or shop online to take advantage of these deals before the sale ends July 30.

*Offers shown are available 7/19/2018 to 7/30/2018 on select items in Microsoft Store while supplies last. Offers and content varies by market and may change at any time. Not valid on prior orders or purchases. May not be combinable with other offers. Other exclusions and limits may apply. Offers on gaming devices, accessories, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets are limited to the US, Puerto Rico, and Canada. 

 **After promotional period, Xbox Live Gold subscription continues to be charged at the then-current regular monthly price (subject to change) plus applicable taxes, unless cancelled. Credit card required. Promotional offer not valid for existing subscribers. 

***After promotional period, Xbox Game Pass subscription continues to be charged at the then-current regular monthly price (subject to change) plus applicable taxes, unless cancelled. Credit card required. Promotional offer not valid for existing subscribers. Subscription required to play games; catalog varies over time.

****No Purchase Necessary. Open only to legal residents of the 50 U.S. + DC 18+. Game ends 7/30/18. For details, see Official Rules.

Posted on Leave a comment

Visit Xbox at this week’s San Diego Comic-Con 2018

San Diego Comic-Con, the world’s largest comic and pop-culture festival, is coming soon and Xbox is bringing the fun with exclusive gear, panels, celebrity guests, and more! See below for details on everything Xbox at SDCC and join the fun from California or from the comfort of your own couch.

Xbox Booth (San Diego Comic-Con badge required)
Hall A, Booth #100

For the first time ever, Xbox will have exclusive gear available at SDCC! Stop by to pick up exclusive clothing and items from Xbox and your favorite games and then get them customized on the spot with your Gamertag. See some of the items available here.

Visit us on Thursday, July 19 and Saturday, July 21 for signing sessions with some of your favorite developers and designers, but get there early: only the first 100 people to receive passes will be eligible!

Signings (San Diego Comic-Con badge required):

  • Brendan Greene (“PlayerUnknown”), Creative Director, PUBG Corp – Thursday, July 19 from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. PDT
  • Joe Neate, Executive Producer, and Mike Chapman, Design Director, Sea of Thieves – Saturday, July 21 from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. PDT

Xbox Gear Comic-Con Sweepstakes

Can’t make it to the booth to pick up the exclusive gear? Retweet @Xbox to potentially win an Xbox Gear Comic-Con prize pack! Four winners will receive a collection of exclusive Xbox Gear, and one grand prize winner will receive the gear and an Xbox One X.

Follow @Xbox or @XboxCanada on Twitter and retweet the following tweet when it goes live at the start of San Diego Comic-Con: “RT and follow for a chance to win exclusive #XboxSDCC #XboxGear! NoPurchNec. Ends 7/22/18. #Sweepstakes Rules: bit.ly/2KV2DQ1.” You have until July 22 to enter. Click through for the Official Rules.

Sea of Thieves Panel (San Diego Comic-Con badge required)
Room 5AB, Saturday, July 21 from 1:30pm – 2:30pm PDT

Special guest and Sea of Thieves fan Freddie Prinze Jr. (“Star Wars Rebels,” “24,” “Scooby Doo,” “I Know What You Did Last Summer”) joins the Rare crew, Joe Neate, Mike Chapman, and Peter Hentze as they discuss the lore and expanded universe of Sea of Thieves. Attendees will also receive a limited-edition Sea of Thieves comic and time-limited exclusive in-game DLC!

Xbox Live Sessions

If you’re not in San Diego but still want to follow along with the fun, we’re hosting two action-packed Xbox Live Sessions that you won’t want to miss.

  • PUBG featuring Brendan “PlayerUnknown” Greene: On Thursday, July 19 at 5:00 p.m. PDT, PUBG Creative Director Brendan Greene (@PLAYERUNKNOWN) and Microsoft Executive Producer Nico Bihary (@nico_bihary) will join Rukari Austin (@rukizzelrukizzel) to get their loot on in PUBG’s Miramar map live from inside of a PUBG Bus created by West Coast Customs. That’s right – Xbox, PUBG Corp., and West Coast Customs have teamed up to create a one-of-a-kind, tricked out PUBG Bus which will be home to the livestream and available to see in-person at The Experience at Comic-Con.
  • Sea of Thieves with Freddie Prinze Jr.: On Saturday, July 21 at 5:00 p.m. PDT, Sea of Thieves fan Freddie Prinze Jr. (@RealFPJr) will sail the high seas with members of the Rare team and Major Nelson in an episode of Xbox Live Sessions that’s sure to test the sea legs of the seasoned actor. Fans at home can tune in and watch on http://mixer.com/Xbox  and http://twitch.tv/Xbox.

Xbox at “The Experience at Comic-Con”

SDCC map

SDCC map

Head over to Petco Park where you can play Xbox One games, earn free swag, and win awesome prizes! No Comic-Con badge required.

  • Visit the Samsung truck at The Experience at Comic-Con, located in the Lexus Lot at Petco Park. Climb aboard the truck to compete in Forza Motorsport 7 on Xbox One X via Samsung’s 2018 QLED TVs. More information can be found here.
  • Come visit the first stop of the Xbox One Summer of PUBG tour. Win prizes, check out the PUBG Bus, and stick around for the Xbox Live Sessions! More information can be found here

For all the SDCC details, visit the Xbox SDCC website. For more Xbox news, follow @Xbox on Twitter and stay tuned to Xbox Wire. See you at San Diego Comic-Con!

Posted on Leave a comment

The power and promise of digital healthcare in the Middle East and Africa

Mirembe, 24, lives in a rural village in north-east Uganda, where access to healthcare is limited. Mirembe is pregnant and walks, cradling her swollen belly and fanning herself from the heat, 15 kilometres to the closest clinic to check on her unborn child.

Hundreds of expectant mothers, elderly men and women, and sickly children line the corridors of the clinic patiently awaiting medical attention. Midwives and nurses are few, and they wearily dart from patient to patient doing what they can to help. Mirembe will wait six hours to be attended to.

When she’s finally seen, she’s told the clinic doesn’t have an ultrasound machine. If she wants to have an ultrasound, she must travel to the Mulago Hospital in Kampala, Uganda’s largest public hospital, where she must pay 20,000 Ugandan shillings, equivalent to about US$5, for a prenatal visit. In this part of the world, that is a significant amount of money.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 830 women die from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications around the world every day. It’s estimated that in 2015, roughly 303 000 women died during and after pregnancy and childbirth. Many of these deaths were in low-resource locations like Uganda, and most could have been prevented.

However, technology is helping to eliminate some of the challenges of distance and lack of trained medical staff. Mirembe can now hear her unborn child’s heartbeat from the comfort of her own home through an innovative app call WinSenga, which reassures her that both she and her baby are healthy.

WinSenga is a mobile tool, supported by Microsoft technologies, which helps mothers with prenatal care. The idea was conceived when the Microsoft Imagine Cup competition inspired then-university students Okello and Aaron Tushabe to use their computer science skills to tackle some of Africa’s biggest problems. They were motivated by the plight of mothers like Mirembe who live outside the reach of modern medical care.

The handheld device scans the womb of a pregnant woman and reports foetal weight, position, breathing patterns, gestational age, and heart rate. The app makes use of a trumpet-shaped device and a microphone which transmits the data to a smart phone. The mobile application plays the part of the nurse’s ear and recommends a course of action. The analysis and recommendations are uploaded to the cloud and can be accessed by a doctor anywhere.

man touching a smart tablet

This is just one example of how Africa, a continent that bears one-quarter of the global disease burden but only has two percent of the world’s doctors, could outperform developed nations’ healthcare systems by leapfrogging over inefficiencies and legacy infrastructure.

In fact, digital healthcare in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region is booming with the proliferation of disruptive solutions underpinned by 21st century innovations like cloud, mobile, Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Let’s talk telemedicine

One trend revolutionising the delivery of healthcare in MEA is telemedicine, which is the use of telecommunication and IT to provide clinical healthcare over long distances. Given the region’s high rate of mobile penetration, telemedicine is growing rapidly. In fact, the telemedicine market in MEA was estimated at $2.19 billion in 2015 and is projected to reach $3.67 billion in 2020.

Forward-thinking countries like Botswana are making swift progress when it comes to the implementation of sustainable telemedicine projects.  Microsoft and the Botswana Innovation Hub launched Africa’s first telemedicine service over TV white spaces in 2017. Through this initiative, clinics in outlying areas of Botswana can now access specialised care remotely using TV white spaces, which are unused broadcasting frequencies in the wireless spectrum.

Posted on Leave a comment

The power of machine learning to change—and maybe even save—the world

In the last two decades, the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) has grown from a very small community of data scientists to something that is woven into many people’s daily lives. Machine learning, computer vision, and other AI disciplines—supported by the cloud—are helping people achieve more, from mundane tasks, like avoiding a traffic jam, to revolutionary breakthroughs, like curing cancer.

Over the past year, Microsoft has been on a journey to apply these transformative technologies to the world’s biggest environmental challenges. On July 12, 2017, Microsoft launched AI for Earth as a $2 million program in London, with a goal of providing AI and cloud tools to researchers working on the frontlines of environmental challenges in the areas of agriculture, water, biodiversity, and climate change.

Since that time, AI for Earth has grown into a $50 million over five-year program, with 112 grantees in 27 countries and seven featured projects. People are using machine learning and computer vision to learn more than previously possible about our planet and how it’s changing, and increasingly using these insights to chart a better future.

These are big goals, but we’re confident in our ability to get there because we know how advanced our tools like machine learning and computer vision already are. Consider machine learning. We have come a long way from the simple pattern-matching of ELIZA. Fifteen years ago, when I got my degree in artificial intelligence, problems like facial recognition, machine translation, and speech recognition were dreams of the field, and now they are solved problems. Among other things, machine learning can group similar items together, detect unusual occurrences, and construct mathematical models of historical data to make future predictions.

These techniques are incredibly helpful for sorting through large amounts of data. Today, we’re excited to share a new story about the power of this technology that also helps answer a basic question: what is the value of AI when we don’t have massive amounts of data already waiting to be processed? This is an issue for many individuals and organizations working in the field of biodiversity, especially when the species are very small, travel great distances, and are hidden from public view.

That’s precisely the challenge we set out to address recently at the most magical place in the world – Walt Disney World Resort. Purple martins are yearly visitors to Disney, nesting at the park before returning their journey to the Brazilian Amazon. Disney scientists have been working with the purple martin community and have provided homes for the families for the past 20 years, studying the conservation of the species with more than 170 nests each year. Despite their annual visits, there is still lots to be learned about nesting behavior of these birds, in part because they nest in enclosed structures known as gourds. Some of what is known is troubling – the species is in decline, with an estimated population drop of 40 percent since 1966.

How do you close this data gap quickly to better understand the species to protect their future? Enter AI. Tiny connected homes, including cameras and cloud-connected sensors were installed, and those combined with computer vision began to deliver data on behaviors that were infrequently observed, like hatching, the caring for and growth of purple martins. External factors, like temperature, humidity, and air pressure were also recorded. Disney and Microsoft hope to expand this work, and AI will help pull all this data together to deliver insights in hopes of inspiring the next generation of conservationists to protect the purple martins for the future.

While this is our newest story, this work is happening across the world. We’re proud to support AI-enabled solutions for biodiversity, including:

PAWS: Machine learning to predict poaching. Spearheaded by a team of researchers at USC, an AI for Earth partner, with additional work being done by a member of the team now at Carnegie Mellon University, an AI for Earth grantee, the Protection Assistant for Wildlife Security (PAWS) processes data about previous poaching activities in an area and creates optimized routes for rangers to patrol based on where poaching is most likely to occur. These routes are also randomized to keep poachers from learning and adapting to patrol patterns. Currently, the PAWS algorithm is being improved so that it can incorporate new information that rangers see while on patrol—such as human footprints—to alter the proposed patrol route in real-time.

Access to ranger patrol data is key. That’s why PAWS partnered with the Uganda Wildlife Authority at Queen Elizabeth National Park. They had collected 14 years of patrol data and more than 125,000 observations on animal sightings, snares, animal remains, and other signs of poaching. PAWS is now being used in several parks, and the system has led to more observations of poacher activities per kilometer than were possible without technology.

Wildbook: Machine learning and computer vision to identify species. One of our newest featured projects, Wild Me, is showing what is possible by pushing the limits of computer vision, with an AI tool that smartly identifies, captions, and moderates pictures. Researchers often have little meaningful data on species. But computer vision makes it possible to tap into an explosion of images, available for free or at a low cost from camera traps, drones, professional photographers, safari-goers, and citizen scientists. Wild Me is not only using computer vision to identify images of zebras, for example, but is also identifying the individual animals in photos—helping to address a fundamental problem in conservation. If we can identify individual animals, then this eliminates the need for physically tagging them, which can harm the animal.

This new data on animals then goes into Wildbook, the platform developed by Wild Me. Using machine learning, it’s possible to either match an animal within the database or determine that the individual is new. Once an animal is identified, it can be tracked in other photographs. Wildbook stores information about the animals, such as their location at a specific time, in a fully developed database. This combination of AI tools and human ingenuity makes it possible to connect information about sightings with additional relevant data, enabling new science, conservation, and education at unprecedented scales and resolution. With a much more detailed and useful picture of what is happening, researchers and other decision-makers are able to implement new, more effective conservation strategies.

We see incredible potential and tremendous progress in our grantees’ work and in the explosive pace at which new algorithms are being built, refined, and made publicly available. And these are just a few of the grantees, featured projects, and partners we’re working with in the area of biodiversity; there’s equally exciting work in water, agriculture, and climate change that we look forward to sharing in the near future on this blog. Check out the amazing organizations and individuals we’re supporting, apply for a grant to join us or our new partnership with National Geographic Society, or just follow our progress on Twitter by following @Microsoft_Green, or me at @jennifermarsman.

Tags: , , ,

Posted on Leave a comment

Microsoft announces the public preview of Windows 10 IoT Core Services

Woman holding a Windows IoT device

The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming how businesses gather and use data to develop competitive insights and create new financial opportunities. As IoT technology matures and our partners gain more experience, they are evolving their business models to increase the overall return on investment of their IoT solutions. This includes adding recurring revenue, enhancing security, and reducing support costs.

At Computex a few weeks back, we announced Windows 10 IoT Core Services, which enables our IoT partners to commercialize their solutions running on Windows 10 IoT Core. We are now excited to announce the public preview of this service along with details on purchasing and pricing. As described in our previous blog, IoT Core Services provides 10 years of operating system support along with services to manage device updates and assess device health.

Windows 10 IoT Core Services helps our partners monetize their solutions by creating a business model that provides ongoing long-term value. IoT devices are often in service for many years, so device support costs are important considerations that are either included in the initial purchase cost or often paid over time through a service contract. Windows 10 IoT Core Services provides our partners with the ability to distribute maintenance costs over the life of the device while also giving them tools to streamline and reduce maintenance overhead. This service can be purchased up front with a device or through a recurring subscription and provides 10 years of operating system support, including updates for security and reliability.

Device Update Center is part of the Windows Hardware Device Center and is used to create, control, and distribute device updates for the OS, custom apps, drivers, and other files. The steps to register a new Windows 10 IoT Core device are described in the Device Update Center User Guide. Entries can be created in Device Update Center for each unique device model as shown below.

Device Update Center

Device Update Center

OS updates and custom updates (apps, drivers and files) are delivered through the same content distribution network that is used daily by hundreds of millions of Windows users around the world. Updates can be flighted in three distinct rings – Preview (test devices), Early Adopter (self-host devices) and General Availability (production devices) to have a controlled roll-out process where new changes can be validated with smaller sets of devices before broader deployment.

Flight 2

In addition to long-term support and device update control, Windows 10 IoT Core Services includes rights to commercialize with Device Health Attestation. This cloud-based service evaluates device health and can integrate with a device management system to improve the security of an IoT solution. These features give our partners the foundation to build sustainable business models based on Windows 10 IoT Core.

The Windows 10 IoT Core operating system remains royalty-free. Windows 10 IoT Core Services is a paid offering that can easily be added depending on the scenario.

  • Businesses and solution integrators can purchase IoT Core Services through an Azure subscription. The subscription price will be $0.30 per device per month when the product releases later this fall. During the preview period, the price is $0.15 per device per month.
  • Partners enrolled in our Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program will be able to resell the service and establish ongoing relationships with their customers. They can sell a flexible, pay-as-you-go subscription as needed to meet device requirements. This option will be available later in the year.
  • OEMs can license the service with a device by pre-paying for the service. This option will be available later in the year.

Microsoft is committed to offerings to help our partners provide compelling solutions and achieve their business goals. Along with our recently announced support for NXP silicon platforms, long-term support, and the Windows AI Platform, Windows 10 IoT Core Services is another step in meeting our partners’ needs.

To learn more about developing with Windows 10 IoT, enroll in our Early Adopter Program at EEAPIOTPartner@microsoft.com and to learn more about Windows 10 IoT Services, see the technical details at the Windows IoT Core Dev Center.

Posted on Leave a comment

Why Surface Pro is the only device that can keep up with 2 UK motorbike makers

Combining that equipment with the knowledge and skills that come with years of working with aluminium means the brothers can create bikes that are likely to be in high demand for decades to come.

“Everything in here is aluminium, as it’s always considered to be the go-to material,” Bujar points out. “However, it’s a lot harder to work with, and welding is almost impossible, so you need a lot of skill. On the other hand, using aluminium rubber-stamps the quality. For example, Ferrari only made 99 versions of its 1964 275 coupe in aluminium and they now sell for four times the price of a regular model. In 10 years’ time a new bike made out of steel might start rusting, but you can leave our aluminium bikes for 30 years and they will stay exactly the same. It’s not going to look out of date.”

Bujar and his brother decided to manufacture the bikes themselves after failing to find anyone who could copy their designs in aluminium: “We were only approached by old guys who used to do this back in the day. They thought they might be able to do it but not the way we wanted. They couldn’t think in terms of surfaces, only in moulds.”

This was a line in the sand for them. The pair were adamant they needed specific designs to cope with the levels of downforce and lift their fast bikes would create – problems that manufacturers didn’t have to worry about several decades ago, when bikes were much heavier and slower.

Unable to find anyone who could bring their visions to life, the pair picked up their tools and got to work.

Posted on Leave a comment

Xbox is coming to gamescom next month in Cologne; here’s what to plan for

It’s a great time to be an Xbox gamer! Hot on the heels of our record-breaking E3 briefing, and the amazing reaction we’ve had from our fans, we’re excited to let you know that Xbox will be coming to gamescom in Cologne, Germany this August. We’ll be bringing a great line up of games from developers around the world that we can’t wait for gamers in Europe to get their hands on.

Here’s a quick overview of what we’ll be getting up to at the show this year:

Inside Xbox

This year at gamescom, we will be hosting a special episode of Inside Xbox, broadcast live from our Xbox booth in the Koelnmesse. Tune in on Tuesday, August 21, at 4:30 p.m. CEST (7:30 a.m. PDT) for lots of news, new Xbox One bundles and accessories, and features on upcoming titles that we can’t wait to tell you more about and perhaps even a few surprises!

You can catch the show on xbox.comMixerTwitchYouTubeFacebook, and Twitter.

Xbox FanFest: gamescom 2018

Xbox FanFest will return to gamescom once again this year, this year on the Rhein River! FanFest will happen for one incredible night on Thursday, August 23.  More information on tickets and all the special activities happening on this day will be revealed very soon.   Be sure to track #XboxFanFest for all updates.

Xbox Booth

The Xbox booth will feature a fantastic line up of 25 games across a diverse range of genres – we’ll be making sure everyone has a way to play and have fun! If you’re coming to the show, do make sure you pay us a visit – we’re in Hall 8 of the Koelnmesse (North entrance).

This is the first time that European gamers will have the chance to jump in and try out many of our newest gameplay experiences including the open world freedom of driving through stunning beautiful historic Britain in Forza Horizon 4 or embarking on a journey to unravel Ori’s true destiny in this emotionally engaging, hand-crafted, story-driven adventure in Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Gamers will also have the opportunity to get the first ever hands-on with State of Decay 2’s Daybreak Pack, an all-new mode set to release in September.

And you won’t want to miss the PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds experience, featuring a new mode for Xbox One, playable for the first time at gamescom – and only in the Xbox booth.

Mixer Booth

Microsoft’s livestreaming service Mixer will also be at gamescom, located right next to the Xbox booth in Hall 8, where they will be bringing back the always popular HypeZone LIVE experience! Attendees will have the chance to earn victory in battle royale matches and even walk away with big prizes, while everyone at home can watch the turmoil unfold.  Get a head start on the competition by watching some HypeZone action on Mixer.com now.

Visit the Xbox Official Gear Shop

Making our European debut and in partnership with Game Legends, come and visit the Xbox Official Gear Shop in the Gamescom fanshop arena. Fly your gaming colors and show off your fandom for Xbox and award-winning franchises like Halo, PUBG, and Gears of War with all new apparel and collectibles. We will have more information on this exciting new initiative over the coming weeks.

Show opening times are as follows:

  • Tuesday, August 21 – 9:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. CEST (press/trade only day)
  • Wednesday, August 22 – 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. CEST
  • Thursday, August 23 – 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. CEST
  • Friday, August 24 – 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. CEST
  • Saturday, August 25 – 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. CEST

Remember to keep your eyes on Xbox social channels all gamescom week for the latest – Mixer, Facebook, Twitter – we’ll keep you updated with all the great activity happening from the show. Can’t wait to see you there!