Last week, Microsoft’s Craig Mundie visited a number of universities in the USA and Canada, engaging with the next generation of computer scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, doctors, and educators to discuss what the future of technology holds, and how it’ll play a critical role in these and other fields.
He spoke about the appearance of more natural user interfaces (NUI) and the merging of the physical and digital worlds. One thing that Craig discussed a bit more last week was “Big Data.”
“Craig showed how the Visual Experience Engine (the technology that powers visualization in WorldWide Telescope) can be used to provide rich visualization of big data–in this case showing precipitation data in the US over a 30-year period. You simply couldn’t see this kind of detail, or perhaps notice that Seattle is not as rainy as the mountains that surround it, by looking at numbers alone,” revealed Steve.
“When you add machine learning — a branch of artificial intelligence that infers probability of events based on huge amounts of data and techniques such as pattern matching — to the mix of big data visualization, you’re able to get new insights about things you didn’t even know to look for. With the combination of big data and machine learning, systems can do much more for us. One example of this convergence that Craig also highlighted last week is the InnerEye Organ Navigator, which’s able to identify specific organs in complex medical scans.”
Craig discussed several aspects of NUI, using some of the advances in Windows Phone 7.5 and the recently released Kinect SDK for Windows to illustrate some of the advances here. He also demonstrated KinectFusion, a Microsoft Research project, which uses a Kinect camera to create a real-time 3D model of an object, a person or even a whole room.
Avatar Kinect is another example of the blurring of physical and digital worlds, a technology that enables people to meet together in the same virtual space, represented by avatars that mimic the facial expressions and movements they are making in the real world.