Microsoft has recently opened up a new 60,000 square foot facility in Redmond, Washington that it is calling the Garage. It took six months to remodel the building, which now has a huge open gathering spaces and plenty of new windows to let in daylight. Sprinkled around the building are new "pods," temporary work spaces where teams of two, three, or five employees can set up shop to collaborate on projects for weeks at a time.
And just past the reception area is a meeting room that can be opened up to create a larger space by raising two garage doors.
Garage, is a Microsoft initiative to encourage innovation among employees. The two-year-old program helps incubate those side projects that employees want to dive into but can only find time for at night and over weekends.
The Garage gives workers access to tools such as a soldering bench, a laser cutter and a 3D printer. It offers instrumentation for testing prototypes. The Garage will host Web applications. But maybe most important, it connects workers to colleagues with similar interests or needed skills, something that can be challenge at a company with nearly 90,000 employees.
"The goal was to figure out how we could support grassroots innovation," said Garage director Quinn Hawkins.
According to the article, the Garage program actually started over two years ago but Microsoft finally gave the program its own building which opened last week. The Garage offices are actually in Building 4, one of the oldest buildings on the Microsoft Redmond campus. In fact the bathrooms had things like "IBM sucks" before Microsoft renovated the space. Now the building has been changed to allow more open space. The article states, "Sprinkled around the building are new 'pods,' temporary work spaces where teams of two, three, or five employees can set up shop to collaborate on projects for weeks at a time."
In addition to the new building, Microsoft also holds what it calls "science fairs" that allow its employees to show off their creations to other. One of the most recent projects is the Lync Conversation Translator. The program lets two people who speak two different languages use a chat program to "speak" to each other. One English speaking person types in a statement directed to a German-speaking recipient and it shows up on the German speaking person's screen in his or her own language, and vice versa.
Here’s some pictures of Microsoft Garage: