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Microsoft Toys

Microsoft Research Projects Showcased 294

prostoalex writes "Seattle Times reporter visited the Microsoft Research expo hosted by the company. The inventions of the future include a robot that could attend conferences in your behalf and allow you to communicate via video and audio applications, a software package that translates the sign language into readable English, e-mailable identification documents and some enhancements to Microsoft's operating systems."
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Microsoft Research Projects Showcased

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  • Also displayed were the next generation of crashes in the Windows operating system, including those with up to a million shades of blue on a blue screen, those that can crash every computer on a network at the same time (Win, Linux, and MacOS), and a new feature that will cause your heart to stop when Word crashes. ....ok, it's a joke. laugh.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 31, 2003 @12:42AM (#6577301)
    a robot that could attend conferences in your behalf

    I thought we had prior art on this one - in the form of the US Senate.
  • Robot Uses (Score:5, Funny)

    by inertia@yahoo.com ( 156602 ) * on Thursday July 31, 2003 @12:42AM (#6577302) Homepage Journal
    a robot that could attend conferences in your behalf

    Great way to save on air travel. Shipping has to be cheaper. But why stop at conferences? Some other ideas:
    • Have a robot attend your acquaintance's wedding.
    • Save on sick days, have the robot show up to work.
    • Stash one at the co-location facility, have Tweekie [gla.ac.uk] take care of those pesky reboots and upgrades.
    • Send one to your local polling place when it's time to vote. Let them sort it out.
    • Have it wait in line for the next Star Wars Episode. Then have it see the movie. Do you really think the plot will be more interesting if you go yourself?
    • Or for those who are hiring Indians, have the robot replace your job and have the CEO pocket the costs!

    • I think what I really need is a robot that will attend meetings on my behalf and make people *think* I'm listening in via teleconferencing.

      -a
    • by Henry Pate ( 523798 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @03:57AM (#6577987) Homepage Journal
      I think slashdotters a missing a big use of this new Robo-conference technology. This is one of the first chances to see the BSOD in action. I can imagine it now, the presenter takes the stage to begin the presentation, only to be interrupted by 200 mini-robots falling out of line, dropping to the floor and yelling "Access violation at XXXX:XXXX" in a sort of monotone gurgling voice, hours of fun for the linux geeks, and it never gets old.
    • a robot that could attend conferences in your behalf

      Great way to save on air travel. Shipping has to be cheaper. But why stop at conferences? Some other ideas ...


      It seems like someone just started reading Isaac Asimov at Microsoft. Wait until they get through the book.
  • Does the Windows extensibility allow you to change the color of the "STOP" screens? That would be innovative (just as much as the iShit^H^H^H^HLoo).
  • by southpolesammy ( 150094 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @12:45AM (#6577314) Journal
    New from Redmond! It's MS Intern! He listens to speakers! He takes notes! He asks them your questions! He does all this while you go to the pub! Get yours today!

    [Taxes, title, registration, licensing, support fees, food, water, shelter, companionship not included. Some parts sold separately. Batteries not included.]
  • by sould ( 301844 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @12:46AM (#6577324) Homepage
    People waiting to take an elevator could enter their destination floor into a cellphone instead of pushing the elevator button,


    Wow! I cant wait - Imagine the incovenience of reaching out and pressing a button replaced with patting all your pockets down searching for a phone, pulling it out, typing in your pin code to unlock it and....still pressing a button.


    Yup. Sounds like Microsoft style innovation to me.

    • by sydlexic ( 563791 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @12:55AM (#6577375)
      It's to save people the embarassment of pressing the button for the Porn floor in front of others.
    • To be fair, though a cell phone thing is a bit out there, it'd probably be possible to come up with a routing method for elevators that, based on a known destination floor before they get to your current location, could act more efficiently.
      • by MrLint ( 519792 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @01:11AM (#6577456) Journal
        The Sirius Cybernetics corporation is please to announce elevators tat can see into the near future, they know when you are going to need an elevator and which floor you want to go to because its already seen itself drop you off.

        *NOW WITH GPP! Genuine People Personalities!
        • Elevators in big building have this kind of 'intelligence'. They know the pattern of the employes movment at certain time in the day and prepare a bunch of elevators at some strategic point before anyyone have asked for them. They are driven by Fuzzy logic IA in the basement.
      • To be fair, though a cell phone thing is a bit out there, it'd probably be possible to come up with a routing method for elevators that, based on a known destination floor before they get to your current location, could act more efficiently.

        Sorry, but Bah!

        What you say is true - but only in theory - as it requires user intervention to support it. Do you really think your average secretary is going to bother pre-ordering each lift he wants to take?

        Or just wait for one to come?

        For things like that to work
        • by josh crawley ( 537561 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @01:41AM (#6577574)
          What you say is true - but only in theory - as it requires user intervention to support it. Do you really think your average secretary is going to bother pre-ordering each lift he wants to take?

          Umm, you pre-order the elevator already, when you press the button in the waiting area. The only problem is that you're only telling the micro-processor that controls it "up or down". If I'm on the 5th, and going to the 10th, and there's an elevator on the 4th floor which already has 5 people in it who are going to the 10th, and 2 others for the 15th, it would make sense for that elevator to stop, rather than another elevator at the 4th which has 3 people destined for the 11th and 12th. Right now your average elevator just says "people who want to go up should get on elevators that are already going up, and vice versa". Now, we could have the same capability by just having the floor number buttons in the elevator waiting atrium, but the cell-phone capability has two potentials:
          1. Since cell phones are nigh-ubiquitous, it replaces any unwieldy "50 buttons" interface needing to be in place in the building, and if adopted across the board, becomes an intuitive act for the user (i'm walking toward the elevator, pull out my cellphone...*beep* bam there's my elevator)
          2. The location of the cellphone could be tracked within the elevator; therefore the scheduling doesn't get confused by someone getting off before their floor, or some prankster dialing up 50 random floors in a row
      • Excellent! You've just done better research than Microsoft!

        Didn't take too much work, did it?
    • Obligatory hhgttg reference: Just watch out for when elevators are given an AI powerful enough to see into the future and know your request. Watch out for when they go sideways though.
    • by Nice2Cats ( 557310 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @03:39AM (#6577938)
      The convenience is for pranksters, not for the people who actually want to use the elevator. Now instead of running down the stairs and pressing the buttons as you go along to force the elevator to open the door on every floor, you the teenage prankster can sit in the lobby -- hell, he or she can sit in the lobby of the next building -- and with your cellphone, send that elevator randomly from one floor to the next.

      Now, for real fun, get a list of elevator numbers in your financial district and have your computer dial those numbers. The challenge to you and every other hacker in the city is to get all of the elevators in the basement at the same time. You get extra points for every CEO who misses a meeting because he is stuck in the cabin next to the heating room...

      Oh, to be young again...

  • Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Eric_Cartman_South_P ( 594330 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @12:48AM (#6577332)
    and some enhancements to Microsoft's operating systems

    Such as security and stability? That would sure be nice.

    • by 0x0d0a ( 568518 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @01:31AM (#6577534) Journal
      MS stability isn't all that far from Linux stability. I'd pretty safe-feeling with both the NT kernel and the Linux kernel. GNOME software and Explorer -- *application software* both have instabilities.

      Granted, so much crap is tied into Explorer that Explorer dying is generally worse than the GNOME panel crashing, but if you compare each chunk to its Linux equivalent, it's not *that* far away.

      If MS hadn't made a couple of totally stupid moves, tying functionality into Explorer instead of doing it the right way, in the kernel, Explorer crashing away wouldn't be such a big deal (Explorer simulates symlinks, Explorer works around stupid MS file-locking semantics in XP, Explorer provides the high-level widgets for many other applications...)
      • by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @02:17AM (#6577688)
        Explorer crashing generally isn't a big deal in XP (or 2k for that matter). 9 times out of 10 the OS notices and restarts it for you, and on the odd occassion when it doesn't, you can just launch it yourself from Task Manager.

        That said, these days, XP crashes on me about as often as Linux does - ie not very often at all. And yes, I am talking about a machine that gets left on 24/7 - I do not switch my work machine off at all.
        • I work quite heavily with Linux machines and they only crashed in case of hardware errors. Some machines even continued their server tasks with a totally broken hard disk.

          On the other hand, when I toyed around with Excel and some Visual Basic script under XP the other day, the bl**dy thing refused to shut down properly. Had to kill the "explorer" before it would stop. And don't get me started on NT, or Word for that matter...

          Then again, XP is a whole lot friendlier than any Linux distro I've ever seen, an
        • How do you restart it (explorer) from the task manager?
    • Re:Huh? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by WeiszNet ( 88819 )
      I will get bashed for this but MS actually does some interesting things which could improve reliability and stability of their OSes.

      Check out the SLAM toolkit [microsoft.com]. It is far from complete and others are doing related work [nasa.gov], but still MS is clearly researching some very interesting ideas here.

      Basically (and a bit oversimplified) what they try to do is create software that can reasonably well check if a given device driver could ever deadlock. If you can tell that before even compiling the driver, I'd say that

  • by josh crawley ( 537561 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @12:48AM (#6577336)
    Thank you for the useful link to this page [microsoft.com] detailing Microsoft's operating systems. Without your help I would be left wondering: "What operating systems does this Microsoft company make? Do they make the Lunix?"

    Again, thank you.

    Just to stay on-topic, the meeting robot reminds me of an anecdote by Richard Feynman I believe, where he was talking to a Danish princess after winning the Nobel Prize. Noticing all the people shaking hands at the event, he mused about a "hand-shaking robot" to save time and hand fatigue. He then further postulated that if one person had a hand-shaking robot, all the other hand-shakers would want one too, so at ceremonies such as the Nobel Prize Awarding, one dignitary would send his robot to go shake all the other robot hands waiting in a line.

    I'm visualizing 10 robots sitting at a conference table, while the whole board of directors is sitting at home, naked, drinking their morning coffee, etc.
    • Thank you for the useful link to this page detailing Microsoft's operating systems. Without your help I would be left wondering: "What operating systems does this Microsoft company make? Do they make the Lunix?

      I also appreciate the effort. I was unaware the MS does in fact make the Lunix [mslinux.org].

      I'm visualizing 10 robots sitting at a conference table, while the whole board of directors is sitting at home, naked, drinking their morning coffee, etc.

      This does sort of imply that (a) social greeting has gotten ou
    • by core plexus ( 599119 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @01:59AM (#6577634) Homepage
      "while the whole board of directors is sitting at home, naked, drinking their morning coffee, etc."

      dear god i wish that mental image had never popped into my head, worsened by the "etc." part.

      -cp-

  • by webguru4god ( 537138 ) * on Thursday July 31, 2003 @12:48AM (#6577337)
    Two of the ideas that Microsoft presented at this expo, both of which are mentioned in the Seattle Times article, are ideas or inventions that have already been invented by other people!

    "Robie the Robot" appears to be nothing more than an Evolution ER1 Robotics [evolution.com] kit, which Evolution Robotics has been selling for quite a while now. It is a robotics kit that allows you to take an existing laptop and hook it up to some motors and a webcam and control through some command line API's or a nice GUI Evolution has built.

    The American Sign Language translation glove [informationweek.com] was actually introduced at the 2002 Intel Science Talent Search competition by Ryan Patterson of Grand Junction, CO. Patterson's glove uses custom designed electronics to detect hand and finger movements and translate those movements from ASL into their English forms, letters and punctuation.

    Now don't get me wrong, I'm not bashing Microsoft or saying that they are ripping off other people's ideas, but if they are trying to bill these items as new research developed at MS R&D labs that's wrong. If they are merely taking these ideas and refining them for future use in the consumer/professional world, then I'm sure that these concepts will benefit from having Microsoft's resources. I'm merely trying to point out that these ideas aren't new in any way, and they have already been conceived and engineered by others, who should recieve all due credit.

    • Recognizing letters from ASL also isn't that useful - it would be the equivelent of taking dictation one letter at a time, albeit a bit faster for proficient signers. It is the first step, however, of recognizing any ASL sign, which would allow dictation by deaf people. However, to do that you'd need to know where the glove is in space, not just its configuration with respect to itself, which would require more sophisticated hardware.

      Also, imagine the possiblities if you could teach in your own signs, as a method of interacting with the program of your choice.....

    • I do hate that they are taking credit for Ryan's work, though. But why is this any different than anything else that they do?
    • As I recall, Ryan Patterson even applied for a patent - beating out Sony (I think - one of the large Japanese tech companies, there was a press release I think published in the Rocky Mountain News) who was working on the same idea. It would be absolutely hilarious, to see him club MS over infringement!

      Truth be told, though, it was a rather shallow project - flex sensors, analog-to-digital converter, transmission over RF using standard chips he used at an internship the previous summer, then interpretatio

    • by gosand ( 234100 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @08:54AM (#6578946)
      Two of the ideas that Microsoft presented at this expo, both of which are mentioned in the Seattle Times article, are ideas or inventions that have already been invented by other people!

      "Microsoft Research" is the industry term more commonly known as the "Purchasing Department".

  • As pointed out in this post, Microsoft Research's work is primarly designed to maintain oligopolies [slashdot.org].

    You know how much new tech from Microsoft Research has reached and benefited consumers? Damn little.

    I'm remember the Truetype fiasco...
    • But what about clippy! that's a big innovation! it's so hard to think of keywords like "margins" and search for them, I like to type in "how do I change the margins?" instead. It's so much quicker!

      /* end sarcasm */

      • by josh crawley ( 537561 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @01:26AM (#6577516)
        But what about clippy! that's a big innovation! it's so hard to think of keywords like "margins" and search for them, I like to type in "how do I change the margins?" instead. It's so much quicker!

        Clippy is definitely not for geeks. However, there is a large segment population that wouldn't know what the help menu was if it bit their ass, and who also don't look at things in terms of "input keyword - get results". They think in terms of "ask a question, get an answer." Also, bear in mind that clippy was a combination of two pieces; online help with "natural language" search, as well as a bayesian reasoning piece (the whole "It looks like you're writing a letter..." bit). The suggestion piece also doesn't go very far with geeks, since they generally know (or think they know) what they're doing, whereas that other segment of the population welcomes the help in many cases.

        Also, bear in mind that as annoying as Clippy and the pop-up bits are, there are still some people who just can't grasp the concept of "asking Clippy" before they go elsewhere. I'd imagine because it still isn't "personable" enough to engage these novice users in the same way a helpful person would.

        There's something about the paradigm of text on a screen, and the psychological experience of using a computer that just hasn't been understood yet in interface design. It's something more than a tool-using experience, but less than a "person to person" experience. Hence, the whole argument about "the only intuitive interface is the nipple".
        • by 0x0d0a ( 568518 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @01:42AM (#6577581) Journal
          Well...that was reasonable analysis there, but it still comes down to the fact that if Clippy was a good idea, one has to explain why Microsoft is throwing it out.

          Hence, the whole argument about "the only intuitive interface is the nipple".

          I'm dubious as to whether the nipple is particularly intuitive at all. If someone shoves a big, fleshy thing into *your* mouth, is *your* first reaction "Hmm, I think I'll suck hard on this for a while"?
    • Let go of the hatred man. Its unhealthy.
    • Oligopolies are highly underrated. Think to yourself, where would we be without oligopolies? *Anarchy*, man! *Anarchy*.

      -a
  • I'd like to see a digital camera with the ability to translate text in foreign languages into English (or your local language). For example, if I'm vacationing in Moscow and can't understand the metro map because it's in Russian, I could snap a picture with my digital camera, ask it to translate it, and bam... it runs an OCR on the image, translates the text into English, and replaces the Russian words with English words so I can zoom in and scroll around. Instant sign translation! Great for menus in for
    • This [bgtv.com] isn't far off. Not quite, but it might work for some of your applications. (As for understanding maps, aren't most of the words proper nouns?)
    • Take that idea and combine it with the cell phones that have embedded cameras. You're thinking "you idiot, cell phones would be drained lifeless if they used that much processing!"

      Remember that phones do with pictures.. they send them. You could send the picture to "FR-EN", then it would send a text message back to you with what it translates to. Charge $3.99 a month for it (probably best for European cell networks) and you'll have a nice, easy to use, compact, translator.
  • by EmpNorton ( 124581 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @12:54AM (#6577362) Homepage
    With PARC being a shell of its former self, and other corporate R&D facilites either closed or radically cut back, who else out there is really playing with technologies and trying out new ideas?

    While many of the ideas and products mentioned in the article seem silly or useless, its this kind of thinking that leads to inovative products down the road.

    Apart from the university setting, who else is out there?
    • by Bert690 ( 540293 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @01:31AM (#6577539)

      Apart from the university setting, who else is out there?

      Not many others. IBM Research is still going strong, but it's generally more focused on shorter term research goals than PARC/Bell Labs. But that's probably why it hasn't gone the way of PARC & Bell Labs...

    • You should browse the MIT, Georgia Tech, Urbana Super Computing Center, CMU, SDSU (bioinformatics & clustering), the NIH, etc. There's still quite a bit goin on. It's just not always reported in paper.

      That said, one of the things that bugs me most is m$'s 'innovation' only being on windows. I mean, yeah, they have a vested interest in that, but do you think the cell phone elevator thing is gonna run on anything but a m$ phone? Or the equivalent pda.

      Or the thing that really gets me, Fabric. This sounds
  • The robot (Score:3, Funny)

    by dafoomie ( 521507 ) <dafoomie@hotAUDENmail.com minus poet> on Thursday July 31, 2003 @12:55AM (#6577372) Homepage
    A robot running a Microsoft OS? Is that safe?
    Diz r0bot iz 0wn3d.

    two-way audio and video technology
    Runs around the board meeting or the expo shouting obscentities or just emitting a high pitched tone. Maybe if its got one of those r2d2 electro zappers on it...

    a self-charging robot...
    Oh wait, it does.

    working to replace the remote controls lying around the home with one device
    You mean like, a, universal remote?
  • "...The inventions of the future include a robot that could attend conferences in your behalf and allow you to communicate via video and audio applications..."

    Didn't they have prior art on this in "Real Genius" with the taperecording of the taperecorded lecturer?

    Besides, why would you send a physical robot to a physical meeting when you can use software to emulate a meeting? This approach reminds me of the way technology was implemented in "Brazil".

    Yes, I do have too many movies. 169 laserdiscs a
  • Amazing innovation! (Score:5, Informative)

    by LauraW ( 662560 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @01:01AM (#6577408)
    Some Microsoft researchers showed off technologies they hope to include in the next version of Windows, code-named Longhorn. Those included a rebuilt task bar that could sort onscreen files, and a program that acted like a magnifying glass for Web sites. A program called Fabric would allow a user to drag windows to the side of the computer screen, where they would turn into small icons.

    Wow! Nobody's ever done [apple.com] that [opera.com] that before!

  • Black Hole (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Citizen of Earth ( 569446 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @01:06AM (#6577427)
    And here I thought that Microsoft Research was a black hole where great minds go to never be heard from again.
  • Bowls?? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by canning ( 228134 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @01:09AM (#6577439) Homepage
    Some of the more unusual projects were developed by students Microsoft invited to participate in the research fair. Students from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands presented the idea of parents keeping in touch with grown children through special bowls with digital cameras in them.

    A child could come home and put his keys in the bowl, which would take a picture of the keys and send the image to the parents' bowl. Parents could look into their bowls and feel comforted that their child is home safe.


    Why not a motion activated web cam to tak stills of your child actually entering the house? Sometimes I think people look to hard for solutions they skip the most obvious ones.
    • ...why do people use cell phones -- I mean, 99% of the time you're within 10 seconds of a phone...

      I think the "bowl" idea, while pretty useless, is also pretty cool. But then again, I thought cell phones were pretty useless when they came out too.

      The concept actually makes me think of the clock in the Harry Potter books which has hands that tells you where everyone is at...
    • The whole idea of grown children who presumably live in a different house (hence the child's bowl and the parent's bowl) is that the parents don't have to worry about what the child is doing.

      Maybe it might be useful with a web based interface so a parent could keep in touch with a 12 year old from work, but projecting to another bowl in another home suggests seperate resedences and therefore an independant person on the child end

      I'm 19 now (you may have guessed I was less than 20 because of my teen movie

  • WTF? Bowls? (Score:5, Funny)

    by joelt49 ( 637701 ) <joelt49NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Thursday July 31, 2003 @01:13AM (#6577464) Homepage
    Some of the more unusual projects were developed by students Microsoft invited to participate in the research fair. Students from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands presented the idea of parents keeping in touch with grown children through special bowls with digital cameras in them.

    A child could come home and put his keys in the bowl, which would take a picture of the keys and send the image to the parents' bowl. Parents could look into their bowls and feel comforted that their child is home safe.

    (Emphasis added)

    I think the title says it all. I mean, BOWLS? Who the hell is on crack at MS (besides the MS Software Security and Ethics divisions, if they even exist)? Excuse me, but why would looking at a picture of keys make a parent feel more comfortable? Me, I'd prefer see the actual child. This is one invention destined to fail.
    • by 0x0d0a ( 568518 )
      I think the title says it all. I mean, BOWLS? Who the hell is on crack at MS (besides the MS Software Security and Ethics divisions, if they even exist)? Excuse me, but why would looking at a picture of keys make a parent feel more comfortable?

      Well...parents that are key fetishists!
    • a) They didn't think of it, these were students who came up with it... from your OWN QUOTE: "developed by students Microsoft invited to participate in the research fair"

      and

      b) It's trying to get around the parents being able to watch everything the child does... would you like your parents watching you in your house? No? Didn't think so.

      Geeze... people are really quick to jump on MS... even when it's not them.

      All the same, it's a pretty dim idea. :)
    • A child could come home and put his keys in the bowl, which would take a picture of the keys and send the image to the parents' bowl. Parents could look into their bowls and feel comforted that their child is home safe.
      It's even worse when you realise it's actually a typo...

      Mr. Burns : "Stop everything. I don't remember writing a check for bowling."
      Smithers : "Uhh. Sir, that's a check for your boweling..."
  • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @01:14AM (#6577468) Homepage Journal
    Was it in Back to School where, during the movie they had a progrsion of students leaving tape recorders in their seat instead of attending of class, and by then end even the proffesor was replaced by a tape recorder?

    It seems to me that there would be nothing more useless than a robot attending a conference. Why rent a conference room and fly in a speaker of the audience is going to be inanimate? I think the hotel and covention lobby will make quite sure that such a machine never exists.

    • Was it in Back to School where, during the movie they had a progrsion of students leaving tape recorders in their seat instead of attending of class, and by then end even the proffesor was replaced by a tape recorder?

      Actually, I believe that was from Real Genius [imdb.com]...

  • The Next Market (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lost2Home ( 674278 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @01:15AM (#6577472)
    From the article:

    Researcher Darko Kirovski is developing a low-cost way for motor-vehicle departments and companies to create identification cards on paper. The system uses compression technology to turn photos into data and encryption techniques to make forgery nearly impossible, Kirovski said.

    Someone could receive a driver's license by e-mail and print it out at home, Kirovski said.

    While you could add a digital signature so you would know I modified the data, short of equipping every police officer, bouncer, etc with digital readers to validate the signature - every high/college school student in the country would instantly become legal drinking age as they alter the human readable data printed on the license. It looks like someone isn't thinking this through completely.

    But maybe that's the plan. After all they need to sell something new...

    • Re:The Next Market (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Keeper ( 56691 )
      While you could add a digital signature so you would know I modified the data, short of equipping every police officer, bouncer, etc with digital readers to validate the signature - every high/college school student in the country would instantly become legal drinking age as they alter the human readable data printed on the license. It looks like someone isn't thinking this through completely.

      You might not have noticed, but most driver's liscenses these days have barcodes or magnetic stripes on them (hawa
  • by NickMc2000 ( 614182 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @01:18AM (#6577489)
    I perfer linux over windows but that does not stop me from giving microsoft a chance. All posts have been anti microsoft. Did I see anything interesting in the posts? No. I only saw rantings against microsoft. I find the sign language glove very interesting. I also believe that the confrencing robot would be usefull and save traveling time and fuel. I am not a microsoft zealot, but I don't take any chance that I can to put it down.
    • The problem is mostly that these ideas are *old* ones that have been done before. Microsoft does a lot of research to lock up IP in patents. The idea of research is that companies start putting out amazing new tech to consumers, but despite years of spending lots of money and locking up IP, MS has put very little into actual products.
    • OK, I don't want to hurt your feelings here, but MS didn't invent those gloves (as pointed out by a couple of earlier posters), and the conference-going robot is possibly the stupidest idea I've heard of recently.

      What's the advantage over teleconferencing? Nothing. And what are the additional drawbacks over teleconferencing? Plenty - I'm sure you don't need me to spell them out.

      Consider that people didn't slam these "innovations" because they hate Microsoft for some reason, but because this is absolutely
  • MS style innovation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jade E. 2 ( 313290 ) <<slashdot> <at> <perlstorm.net>> on Thursday July 31, 2003 @01:24AM (#6577510) Homepage
    The idea of having a robot attend meetings for you (or touring and inspecting factories, repairing computers, or any other task that normally requires physical presence but doesn't justify travel) is called telepresence, and people have been working on it for years and years. For example, here's [telepresence.com] a rather sophisticated 386-based telepresence robot from 1995. That happens to be the very first hit out of 39,100 if you look for telepresence at Google [google.com].

    (This comment has been stripped of it's MS-bashing nature, because really, if you don't like them you don't need me to explicitly point out that they're reinventing the wheel, and if you do like them you'll ignore it anyways...)

  • At one point in the article states that the researchers spend time thinking about how to make "money for Microsoft in the future". No they don't. I worked there for a couple of years and making money is not a priority for Microsoft research. Its pretty obvious when you look at the list of ridiculous stuff they talk about in the article; most of this stuff is completely disconnected from reality.

    All the bad stuff you hear about Microsoft research being a black hole from which people are never heard from
    • by 0x0d0a ( 568518 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @01:55AM (#6577619) Journal
      Not making the stockholders money?

      No, that's not true. It's an investment in a patent portfolio, which is an enormously powerful weapon for an established company.

      I do know a couple people from CMU that did work at MS Research, and it's considered sort of where you go when either you're done doing serious work and want to dick around and draw pay. Lots of old CMU profs headed on up there after they've established themselves.
  • Can it pretend to listen while actually sleeping?
  • Microsoft, thou art truly stupid. Robie [tandy.com] is the name of a crappy old robot made by Tandy. Or at least sold by them. It was a moderately fun little toy, though. His big brother, Robie Sr. [geocities.com], is a little more powerful; rather than being basically a fancy radio controlled car with move forward and turn in reverse control, you can actually program moves into him, and he's got half a walkie talkie built into him/the controller so you can speak through him.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    If I send a robot to attend a .NET conference, can I get it to cuss out the speaker whenever they mention Bill Gates while maintaining anonymity, or will it require passport to run? Will Palladium keep it from booting up at Linux/Java conferences, where it will naturally use GPL? What if it hears a watermarked song that the RIAA keeps in its crotch?
  • it'll even (Score:3, Funny)

    by b17bmbr ( 608864 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @01:57AM (#6577622)
    automatically update your computer without even being asked. oh wait, too late.
  • Scalability (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tailhook ( 98486 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @01:59AM (#6577630)
    ...a robot that could attend conferences in your behalf and allow you to communicate via video and audio applications...

    I call this a memebite. Oversimplified to the point of absurdity, and then poorly translated by someone in a hurry. It takes all of 2ms to realize that employing a robot to attend a conference is a deeply absurd idea. Microsoft's products do not reflect the epitome of quality one would wish, but don't allow that fact to cause you to think the people working there are really *that* stupid.

    Obviously, Microsoft has some sort of tele-presence research going on. The possible applications for tele-presence are many, and hardly absurd. That this got translated into "attending conferences" is the fault of some boothtending microsurf (probably a sexy female, by coincidence) that has spent a little too much time in "business" class flying between "conferences."

    If you haven't actually posted some bit on just how stupid this idea actually is, you almost did. Since I have, I'll have a little fun with it;

    This robot is going to take the seat on your flights, or just go as baggage?

    What happens after hours in a multi-day conference? Imagine a storage room with a dozen remotely operated robots kicking around...

    At what point do the presenters decide that in-person attendance is overkill and we find a room of 200+ people (or other bots...) waiting patiently for the bot to adjust the mic properly?

    Will conference promoters all have lobotomies and forget that allowing someone to retransmit their product to "who knows where" is probably not going to contribute much revenue?

    Will Larry Ellison's "conference bot" be 8' tall and gold plated?
  • ...not doing its own research? "Oh. That's just typical Microsoft, yanno. They stand there in abush position and wait. Then when someone actually innovates something, if it cannot be efficiently stolen, Microsoft will buy it."

    Come to think of it, I suppose it is more frightening now that Microsoft might actually be inventing something. Do you suppose? Whatever Microsoft comes up with on its own Microsoft can, well, EMBRACE AND EXTEND! Ack! For now I am tempted to drift off to sleep with comfortable
  • by jwnichls ( 81199 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @02:33AM (#6577744)
    There's an awful lot of bashing going on here about the quality of the research. Certainly it isn't all great (and some of it is probably re-hashed), but you've got to remember that this is being reported by the Seattle Times, not a research journal. The reporter is not necessarily going to report the research contribution of a particular project... They're going to report what their readers will understand. In my experience, these things are rarely the same.
  • by autopr0n ( 534291 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @02:37AM (#6577758) Homepage Journal
    . A program called Fabric would allow a user to drag windows to the side of the computer screen, where they would turn into small icons.

    My god, this will revolutionize the world we live in!
  • by cmacb ( 547347 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @02:43AM (#6577778) Homepage Journal
    Well since the article didn't mention anything that sounded like more than a science fair project I went directly to research.microsoft.com. What I found there didn't look much different than it did 2 years ago. In particular I looked at the "Social Computing Group" because I had paid particular attention to that on my last visit. Last thing they published was in 2002, last thing before that was 2001, followed by a series of things in 2000, 1999, back to 1995.

    It looks like there are about half as many people as before, however they had individual web pages before, and most of them looked pretty much abandoned, now there are no personal web pages.

    They talk about work they did in the distant past using Comic Chat and V-Chat as well as something called Hutchworld, but all of this was there and past-tense when I checked it more than a year ago.

    So in this area of 3D Virtual reality interactions they are basically doing nothing. Their research department is for-show-only. If they are doing any fundamental scientific research, or even true research in algorithm theory I'd like to hear about it.

    I don't personally care whether they do research or not, but I hate when they are compared with other companies that actually DO research as though they are in the same category. I'd put them in the same category as Radio Shack maybe.

    At least they are using their own products these days, click around the site too much and you get things like this:

    Microsoft OLE DB Provider for ODBC Drivers error '80004005'

    [Microsoft][ODBC Driver Manager] Data source name not found and no default driver specified /scripts/people/gogroup.asp, line 14
    • You can find a list of recent publications here [microsoft.com].

      They seem pretty active to me. Then there's all the stuff that doesn't get published, like Detours.

      Of course just because some researcher invents something doesn't mean it ever gets implemented. I once read a review with an MS researcher - she said they sent reports off to the IE product team, but never expected to hear anything back from them.

  • by ratfynk ( 456467 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @02:48AM (#6577791) Journal
    Attention Gort
    please attend conference in Redmond..stop
    Use any means necessary to stop software piracy by major software firm and individuals...stop
    Clatu
  • Especially the thing that transmits signs into plain english. I wonder what else they might have in store. Is it the first time MS does such a thing?
  • Douglas Adams did a lot of evangelising for Apple. I should think an elevator that asks "Where do you you want to go today?" probably infringes on Adams' copyright. Apple should sue MS on his behalf. Besides, iElevator 1.0 will look cooler, use less power, and it will actually work from day one instead of crashing through the basement every time someone prsses the wrong button on the cellphone.
  • People waiting to take an elevator could enter their destination floor into a cellphone instead of pushing the elevator button, Myers said.

    Suddenly, ten flights of stairs doesn't seem so bad. ;-)

  • mmm beer. (Score:3, Funny)

    by mrwonka ( 131100 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @07:37AM (#6578570)
    Next thing you know they'll be designing beer mugs that tell you when they're empty.
  • by White Roses ( 211207 ) on Thursday July 31, 2003 @11:24AM (#6580280)
    Let's see what we have on this list:
    • a robot that could attend conferences in your behalf and allow you to communicate via video and audio applications - Asimo [honda.com] with a video camera.
    • a software package that translates the sign language into readable English - A U-Force [i-mockery.com] with a modified OCS.
    • e-mailable identification documents - PGP [haltabuse.org] signatures.
    • some enhancements to Microsoft's operating systems - which usually either amounts to further cadging of features in other OSs or further restrictions on what you are allowed to do with your computer
    $40 billion and this is the best they can do?

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