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Microsoft Technology

Microsoft Research Showcase Explored 189

prostoalex writes "Every year Microsoft Research scientists show their achievements and developments at Redmond campus. Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports from Techfest, a number of other news resources and blogs are covering it. Read about network-enabled bear that allows parents to communicate with the kids, a mobile phone applications that not only checks, but predicts traffic conditions, and surface computing for digital homes." From the article: "The project isn't fully developed, but the ultimate vision is to have the stuffed animal interact with a child, doing such things as playing games and reading stories. Because the bear is on a network, a parent could also use it to interact with a child remotely -- communicating or even taking snapshots through an embedded camera."
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Microsoft Research Showcase Explored

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    You mean like Slashdot [slashdot.org]?

    Zonk, do you even read Slashdot? Or just when you cash the paycheck?
    • I wonder if this 'MICROSOFT IS INNOVATIVE' story is time to conincide with the patent vote in Europe tomorrow.

      Lets see MSN Desktop search....
      http://desktop.google.com/

      Teddy bear running windows...
      http://www.aibo-europe.com/

      Navigating photo libraries....
      http://www.flickr.com/ ?

      TouchLight,
      http://www.minorityreport.com/ ..predicts upcoming traffic conditions..
      http://www.its.berkeley.edu/conferen ces/trb/00326. pdf

  • by moofdaddy ( 570503 ) * on Sunday March 06, 2005 @02:56PM (#11859673) Homepage
    A friend of mine who works on the redmond campus we telling me about one of the neatest things that they were showing off which seemed to get less attention from the media and others then the rest of the products. These were more pure concept items, things that were not really going to be marketed any time soon but wanted to show off where microsoft was heading. These were networked enabled appliances. While other companies have showed these off before this was the most comphrensive I had heard of.

    Among the products included a microwave, fridge, coffee maker, toaster, dishwater and washer drier. These all tied into a control panel which could be accessed from a household computer which showed the status of each item. So if you had a load of laundry going you could see how much longer it had till it was completed. Or you could set the intensity of your toaster, etc. The neatest was the implimentation of RFID with the fridge. Using RFID tags which they believe will be on all products in the next 5 - 10 years you can look up exactly what products are left and get a full inventory. You can also set up triggers which will text your phone, send you an email, or something of that nature which will tell when something is empty or near empty.

    It appears that Redmond is looking at taking over not just your computer some day but your life as well.
    • THere's a network enabled fridge at The Samsung Experience in NYC. It's pretty cool actually.

      Anyway, who really belives that this is where MS is headed? It's laughable when after all these years they still can't even get Windows right.

    • That all sounds great... To your average slashdotter who spends almost all waking hours in front of the computer.... But what about the normal people who know there is life beyond the computer? Isn't it easier for them to check things manually?
    • I wonder if such things would be used by pedofiles?
    • by idlake ( 850372 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @03:07PM (#11859764)
      Among the products included a microwave, fridge, coffee maker, toaster, dishwater and washer drier. These all tied into a control panel which could be accessed from a household computer which showed the status of each item.

      Lots of companies are working on that. The thought that it is all run by software from a single company is scary. It would be even scarier if that company were Microsoft, given their track record on reliability, safety, and security.

      The neatest was the implimentation of RFID with the fridge. Using RFID tags which they believe will be on all products in the next 5 - 10 years you can look up exactly what products are left and get a full inventory.

      Again, obvious idea that lots of people have been working on.

    • You can also set up triggers which will text your phone, send you an email, or something of that nature which will tell when something is empty or near empty.

      AFAIK, RFID tags don't come with a built-in weighing machine. They won't be able to tell if a container is empty or near-empty. At the most they will be able to tell if a container is in the fridge or not.

      • My patent-pending Mk-1 eyeball visual product quantity measurement system will solve all the problems that RFID couldn't!
      • They don't, but they could. There's no reason that the bottom of the container couldn't contain a piezo element that would measure pressure. That wouldn't work for a soda bottle, though. It might be possible to cheaply design a container that had a float arrangement, however. If guinness can put a nitrogen charger in a can of stout...
    • So if you had a load of laundry going you could see how much longer it had till it was completed. Or you could set the intensity of your toaster, etc.

      Isn't it easier just to walk up to the washer and look at the time left? Or adjust your old fashioned toaster by twisting the little nob? What's the point of placing these guys on a network?

      How much extra will this network-ability cost you?

      Can you imagine the nightmare of configuring these devices to work with your computer? MS and the vendors will claim
      • Isn't it easier just to walk up to the washer and look at the time left?

        No.

      • Yeah, this whole connectivity thing is only going half-way. It's more of a nuisance than a help at this point.

        When the toast is done, the toaster should just put it on a plate for you.

        Also, when the wash is done, the dryer should take it, dry it, fold it and put it in your closet or whatever.

        No need for computer monitoring...

      • It looks like you're trying to clean these clothes, would you like me to help you?

    • Among the products included a microwave, fridge, coffee maker, toaster, dishwater and washer drier. These all tied into a control panel which could be accessed from a household computer which showed the status of each item.


      Bad enough that your PC gets owned. With this it's going to be all your house are belong to us. Just think - spyware in your fridge tracking what products you buy and eat, the washer refuses to run because it is new and hasn't been authorized by Microsoft yet?

    • Solution looking for a problem. Microsoft is having problems selling Windows Media Center, Portable Media Center and Smartphone. And as unimpressive as they are, they are still about 1000 times more useful than anything mentioned here.
    • an undo button for the toaster, now THAT would be cool......
      Personally I'm not interested in having a script-kidie in latvia setting my toaster to "charcoal", my washer to "shred" and my fridge to "sauna".
      Given the prevelance for removing hardware interlocks in place of software (THERAC-25 anyone?), a web-enabled microwave is just too stupid to contemplate.
      (well, apparently it isn't....)
    • Or you could set the intensity of your toaster, etc.

      Sorry, but I bet in twenty years the guy that came up with that concept will be sitting on a bench commiserating with the CEO of Pets.com about how "people just didn't understand the significance of their innovations." The fridge thing has useful applications. But I bet less than 1% of the population of the US has ever wanted to adjust the temperature of their toaster from a computer. Innovations have to solve a problem, otherwise they're just marketi
  • Scary... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Years ago there was a component of a popular entertainment show in the UK called "My Little Friend" (I think), basically the producers would set up a soft toy (eg, teddy bear) with a speaker and place haiiden cameras in the room, then leave a child alone with the toy to draw a picture or something...when the adult was out of the way, the shows producers would sit behind the scenes and talk through the bear to the child...the children would often totally accept that the toy could speak without shock or anyth
    • I was tempted to agree with the AC until he/she brought up accupuncture. I think the widespread unquestioning acceptance that technology and will help solve all problems is a more dangerous problem than superstitious beleifs in "psychics and spirits." Accupuncture vs Cox-2 inhibitors, is a good example of this. At first the AC seemed to address the problem of unquestioning faith in technology, but, like many on ./,however, don't seem to understand the difference between healthy skepticism and pig-headed nar
    • I often wondered if the child would be damaged by this...enough people in the world already believe in rubbish like psychics, spirits, acupuncture, homeopathy and so on, is this just going to make the situation worse?

      Yeah, cuz I never recovered from my Mother reading me fairy tales as a child.

  • by moofdaddy ( 570503 ) * on Sunday March 06, 2005 @02:59PM (#11859706) Homepage
    Because the bear is on a network, a parent could also use it to interact with a child remotely -- communicating or even taking snapshots through an embedded camera.

    Great, allow parents to get even more detached from their kids. Instead of playing with their kids now a parent can sit at their computer while looking at internet porn and paying their taxes and watching their kid through the creepy bear.

    We need products that are going to allow for a more personal connection then we are doing now, not a more remote one. Vidoe conferencing and all that is great but what kids need is real connection, they need to see and play with their parents, not the bear with a camera and potentially a detached voice in it.
  • by vidarlo ( 134906 )

    Do we even want a device that can take a picture of children from remote? First, shoudn't we trust our kids enough to leave them in a private situation, when they think they are? Trust is basic in inter-human relationships.

    And then you can think what would happend if someone discovered a security hole in this. If it is accessible remotely, anyone could take that pic, without anyone knowing possibly. Think about kiddie porn. Would you like your kids to carry a network-enable camera all day? No? Thought s

  • by peculiarmethod ( 301094 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @03:00PM (#11859715) Journal
    that the original version of the beloved teddy bear was, in fact, a small wooden horse. Details at 10.
  • Great news (Score:4, Funny)

    by earthforce_1 ( 454968 ) <earthforce_1&yahoo,com> on Sunday March 06, 2005 @03:01PM (#11859719) Journal
    Until you go into your toddlers room late one night and find the MS teddy bear repeating submliminal messages while they sleep:

    "Don't steal software"
    "Only communists use open source"
    "Support software patents"
  • by TimmyDee ( 713324 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @03:02PM (#11859732) Homepage Journal
    Creepy Ruxpin.
  • Microsoft engineers watched Spielberg's AI at least once.
  • Bleurgh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 06, 2005 @03:02PM (#11859735)
    One of the most scary sci-fi short stories I remember reading is about a dystopian society where children are given talking teddy bears at a young age to indoctrinate them. As a result of this conditioning, the populace doesn't act against the dictatorship. A rebellion attempt is made over the course of 20 years by a group who manages to delete some of the "never kill, even in self-defence" moral messages the teddy spouts for one young boy. But the coup fails because the young boy still believes all the rest of the crap, and kills the group instead.
  • by catisonh ( 805870 )
    Because the bear is on a network, a parent could also use it to interact with a child remotely -- communicating or even taking snapshots through an embedded camera.

    Here's an idea: interact with your child in person. It works better.

    I am so tired of crap like this being developed which will have absolutely no good impact on anyone. Don't you think a child can tell the difference between a stupid bear toy and his/her parents? Who is it that comes up with this crap?
    • Who is it that comes up with this crap? People who don't have kids. People who don't realise that a kid wants parents and it's the parents job to read stories. Anything less and you may as well just dump your kid in a TV room with a bunch of Disney DVDs and a remote control. That's how to make storytelling interactive :-/

      If anyone reading this article thinks that Creepy Ruxpin (good name BTW) is a good idea, remember that in the real world your kids want your time and they want you to read stories. If you

    • This goes to the wider question about our increasingly mediated culture. It's as though everyone has been dying forever to have some kind of "middleware" to protect them from the requirements, risks, and complicated emotions of real life.

      The impetus for this may be general laziness, or people just being too caught up in their personal work and goals to want to bother with the broader personal issues in the world and the ongoing trivial dramas of their children's emotional lives. It's a bottom-line mentalit
  • Just when you aren't looking the bear will ask children if they want to buy the latest Microsoft ______ software for kids.. Or even the latest toy. I'd hate to see what happens if the bear gets hacked and spammers figure it out.
  • Why would I trust a Microsoft fridge, when they can't even write a secure browser or email client?
  • robot caretakers reading stories to kids? ha! everyone knows robbie couldn't talk!
  • The Wired Home (Score:4, Interesting)

    by newdamage ( 753043 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @03:09PM (#11859780) Homepage Journal
    This isn't a new concept by any means. Back in the summer of 2001 I had an internship with Whirlpool working on their wired home project. We had a table PC with a web based interface that would allow us to remotely control the fridge, washer/dryer, oven, microwave, etc. It had a "cool" factor to it, but I don't think it ever made it out of R&D just because it wasn't practical at the time.

    The best implication I saw was being able to use it in conjunction with an oven that could refrigerate as well as cook, that way you could put whatever in it before you left for work, and then start it remotely from work so it'd be ready when you arrived home.
    • This isn't a new concept by any means. Back in the summer of 2001 I had an internship with Whirlpool working on their wired home project. We had a table PC with a web based interface that would allow us to remotely control the fridge, washer/dryer, oven, microwave, etc. It had a "cool" factor to it, but I don't think it ever made it out of R&D just because it wasn't practical at the time.

      It wasn't a new concept even then. Microsoft has been working on this exact kind of thing for over 10 years now - p
  • Obligatory reply (Score:1, Redundant)

    by yotto ( 590067 )
    A network-enabled bear running a Microsoft product alone with your child.

    What could possibly go wrong?
  • Damnit, at first i thought that said network enabled beer. :(

    -------------
    WrongPlanet.net [wrongplanet.net]
  • parenting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quixote ( 154172 ) * on Sunday March 06, 2005 @03:15PM (#11859810) Homepage Journal
    The project isn't fully developed, but the ultimate vision is to have the stuffed animal interact with a child, doing such things as playing games and reading stories. Because the bear is on a network, a parent could also use it to interact with a child remotely -- communicating or even taking snapshots through an embedded camera

    When will parents stop relegating their childrens' upbringing to toys (including TV) and start giving the children what is rightfully theirs: a human touch? If you can't be bothered to play a central role in your child's life, then don't have a child!

    • Re:parenting (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ergo98 ( 9391 )
      When will parents stop relegating their childrens' upbringing to toys (including TV) and start giving the children what is rightfully theirs: a human touch? If you can't be bothered to play a central role in your child's life, then don't have a child!

      What a load of shit. I'm speaking in generalities as that's how your painted with your righteous brush, rather than specifically about this rather dubious bear.

      Perhaps I'm a little sensitive about this given that I actually have a child with another on the w
      • Perhaps I'm a little sensitive about this given that I actually have a child with another on the way shortly, compared to the countless armchair parents out there espousing their great views on parenting.

        The ability to produce offspring does not, in any way, make you more of an expert of raising them.

        For proof, please see any of the thousands of cases of abused children.

        This toy, like television, video games, books, puzzles, or whatever, is a part of the complex environment that you can immerse your chi


    • You are missing the real point. The idea is that actually the stuffed bear will dynamically generate the pictures of the child, thus enabling parents to have a "virtual child", probably as part of Longhorn. Parents will turn the bear on, it will then ship the kid direct to Microsoft where it will form part of their child army which is set to take over the world.

      The parents won't care because they will keep seeing the photos generated from the bear.

    • You're right. All the most well rounded, healthy, happy children I know are not allowed any toys except blocks of wood and books, and are never allowed to leave their parents sight. Sure, even in high school they won't be able to take a crap without their mother wiping their ass, but they'll enter college as a junior. Parenting success! Well, until they die of alcohol poisoning at their first college party away from mother.

      Relax. Just because a toy has fancy gizmos you didn't have when you were a kid does

  • by reporter ( 666905 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @03:20PM (#11859839) Homepage
    From the article: "The project isn't fully developed, but the ultimate vision is to have the stuffed animal interact with a child, doing such things as playing games and reading stories. Because the bear is on a network, a parent could also use it to interact with a child remotely -- communicating or even taking snapshots through an embedded camera."


    Anyone who thinks that a stuffed animal is a good substitute for the presence of a parent is bonkers. Imagine this scenario. The father is too obsessed with working at his startup company, so he buys one of these stuffed animals, say, a bear with network-control capability. He puts the bear in the kid's room and heads off to work. At the office, he activates his Web browser and remotely controls the bear with a Web form. Now, imagine the father acting in this way for a year.

    Do you think that such behavior is good parenting? Such parenting is probably the first step to child abuse [childhelpusa.com].

    Perhaps, I am the oddball in this forum. I think that technology should facilitate the human experience instead of replacing it.

    • Makes me think of the bear in the Kubrik/Speilberg movie 'AI', derived from the story 'Supertoys Last All Summer Long' by Brian Aldiss.

      What next, little boys for parents who can't have children?

    • Anyone who thinks that a stuffed animal is a good substitute for the presence of a parent is bonkers.

      I agree absolutely, but in this case I think it's more an issue of whether the bear is in the hands of good parents or bad parents. I certainly wouldn't advocate abandoning your children to a camera-equipped teddy bear all day -- to do so sounds more like child neglect than anything resembling good parenting. But most parents I know, even when at home with their children (which they hopefully are) ar

      • The tasks you've mentioned do NOT involve sitting in front of a computer.

        But the bear is linked to the computer.

        What this is designed for is the parent who is in front of a computer for some reason. I don't think this would be at work, because that would mean the parent's work network is connected to their home network.

        Which leaves, parents working at home or playing computer games.

        If both parents are on the computer that much, there is a problem.

        This is designed for parents who are too self absorbed a
        • The tasks you've mentioned do NOT involve sitting in front of a computer.

          Exactly right, and the point I was trying to make in my final paragraph was that in the proposed Microsoft future, which I tend to like (despite not being a great fan of Microsoft), people won't be sitting in front of computers all the time when they're using them.

          You're limiting your point of view by assuming that computers are restricted to rectangular boxes in fixed places that people have to be gone to in order to be us

          • But like many other things, just because it's possible for it to be abused by misguided parents doesn't automatically make it a bad thing.

            I'd agree except for the following ...

            You're limiting your point of view by assuming that computers are restricted to rectangular boxes in fixed places that people have to be gone to in order to be used. On the contrary, Microsoft wants computers everywhere (running Microsoft software), all networked into a big integrated system and designed for people to interact with

            • That doesn't exist yet.

              So, right now, the parent would be sitting in front of a computer.

              Well meaning no disrespect, it is a Techfest where research scientists get to show off everything they've been working on, mostly to other Microsoft employees plus a few journalists and academics. (As usual the slashdot summary is woefully inaccurate and misleading.)

              I didn't read anything that implied that this bear was a product actually for sale, and I'd presume that it exists only as much as all of th

  • Now... (Score:3, Funny)

    by EMIce ( 30092 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @03:33PM (#11859902) Homepage
    ...the bear wouldn't look anything like this [joblo.com], now would it?
  • The more personal Microsoft's toys get, the more crucial will be their security and safety. Everyone expects office equipment to fail. But the wrath of a mother who can blame her kid's mishaps on the Microsoft Corporation will outweigh the spin power of even the most well-financed legal and PR departments.
  • In other news... (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by adolfojp ( 730818 )
    Microsoft unveils their new line of spyware for kids!!!

    Cheers,
    Adolfo
  • Real R&D involves exploiting and extending the sciences, not this sort of nightmare toy.

  • I'm sure no Paedo would give a kid such a toy...
  • ...a cuddly toy. That connects to a network. And has the possibility of taking video and pictures?

    Because there's nothing like increasing the range of technology available to peadophiles...
  • by pair-a-noyd ( 594371 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @04:26PM (#11860253)
    "The project isn't fully developed, but the ultimate vision is to have the stuffed animal interact with a child, doing such things as playing games and reading stories. Because the bear is on a network, a parent could also use it to interact with a child remotely -- communicating or even taking snapshots through an embedded camera."

    Can you say "Chucky [imdb.com]"?????

    I can't envision a more terrifying concept...
  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @05:01PM (#11860457)
    "Because the bear is on a network, a parent could also use it to interact with a child remotely -- communicating or even taking snapshots through an embedded camera."

    June 18, 2007
    Threat Advisory from McAfee AVERT

    Virus/Worm Identifier: W32/Bear.A

    Threat Level: Critical

    Threat Pathology
    After being infected, MS-Snoogums(TM) performs one of the following four tasks, chosen apparently at random.

    1) MS-Snoogums will attempt to strangle the nearest child.
    2) MS-Snoogums will begin swearing and berating any child in the room.
    3) If the child is identifiably female (using simple pattern-matching algorithms against three jpegs embedded in the code), MS-Snoogums will make choose lewd comments from a catalog of 47 built into its codebase.
    4) MS-Snoogums will attempt to persuade the child to transport him to the nearest Wells Fargo branch. If successful, MS-Snoogums will use built-in IrDA port to hack Diebold Windows XP Embedded cash machines. Records are altered to show withdrawal from account of one "I. P. Nightly".

    System Protection and Cure
    McAfee AVERT is currently tracking the vendor response. Vendor recommends all children be provided with MS-My-First-Shotgun immediately as a protective measure.

    • Marge: Your doll is trying to kill my husband! [pause] Yes, I'll hold.

      Marge lets the Krusty Co. repairman into the kitchen, to see Homer on the floor, the doll yanking at his tongue. Picking up the doll, the repairman identifies the problem.

      Repairman: [pointing to a Good/Evil switch on the back of the doll]
      Yup, here's your problem. Someone set this thing to ``Evil''.

  • In geek terms... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hachete ( 473378 ) on Sunday March 06, 2005 @05:51PM (#11860747) Homepage Journal
    ...none of this sems like real cutting-edge. None of this is going to change my world. How much do they spend on research?

    IMO, once you're hooked into some huge dinosaur like MS office, you don't let go until you or it dies. And you don't do any fancy research on the side. Take for example Longhorn. That's looking more like Duke Nukem every day. And mark my words, when that appears, it won't be as revolutionary as the spin makes out. It will still have to run MS Office so it can't be that revolutionary or one of the only products that makes a profit for MS will die. Therein lies the catch.

    I've heard the term roach motel applied to MS and this is it. All that expensive talent goes in and we get, what, a teddy-bear? Uh-uh. At least with google, expensive talent produces goods, things that make me go "ah". MSN makes stuff that makes me go "yuck". Amd I guess therein the difference lies.

    h
    • Re:In geek terms... (Score:3, Informative)

      by cgenman ( 325138 )
      Just so that people know, the bear idea is many years old, and was from Japan

      here [bbc.co.uk] is a practical application of it, note the date on the article. Here [asiaweek.com] is another take. Note this was out in the field in 2000.

      There was also a great telepresence robot bear pair, whereby moving one robot bear would move the resultant other robot bear at the other end of the phone line, but I can't seem to find a link to it.
  • One Microsoft Research invention was a clock that has a hand for each member of the household and instead of showing time, shows the location of each member. No mention if it could tell time.

    Obviously no one at Microsoft Research reads Harry Potter or they might have noticed the Weasley household has a clock that not only identifies the location of household members, but knows when they are in peril.

    As for whether it can tell time of not, the Spy Kids movie had a watch that was so full of gadgets it coul
  • There have already been a few negative comments in the thread about the computerised bear. I guess the people reviling this idea have not see Steven Spielberg's Artificial Intelligence [imdb.com]. The animatronic teddy bear, who asserts `I am not a toy,' was probably the film's most endearing character (see him in this photo [allmoviephoto.com]) and immensely natural and loveable in his role.

    Say what you want, but if you are so hopelessly blind to the future to not realise that toys WILL change as technology improves, then I have nothin
    • If you don't think that a fuzzy artificially intelligent childhood friend is a good thing, then I wonder what kind of dark and emotionally deprived childhood you had yourself.

      One that was filled with music (classical, folk, international, modern), absence of TV, a wide selection of books (fiction and non-fiction), a focus on creative toys (Legos etc.) and the imagination, a large amount of time spent in nature, family trips that emphasized the wonder of people and the world rather than the kitschy junk (D
      • You had a nice childhood, alright. But the question is - can most parents provide the same kind of childhood to their children? I think it's neither possible, nor desirable. Parenting cannot be and should not be a full-time job (although I am glad that it was for my mother).

        A robotic teddy bear can take some of the burden from parents. It can do much more than simply console the kid. It can teach the child about the world, point him towards good books, give him ideas for creative projects, keep an eye on h

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