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EmTech: Keynote, Microsoft’s Craig Mundie

by John Moore | September 25, 2008

Highlights of this morning’s keynote by Craig Mundie, Chief Strategy Officer at Microsoft.

Computers will be more pervasive and work in the context of what an individual is doing – think GPS and restaurant search ala iPhone. More broadly, and in a healthcare context, think real-time diabetes monitoring, coupled to intelligent alerts. Last week’s Project HealthDesign had a good example of a diabetes monitoring system that is well worth watching.

Spatial Computing: Computing outside the normal PC construct and compute within the Cloud. As cost of sensors continue to fall they will increasingly be a part of the fabric of future computing. This will lead to computing becoming model based, vs. the discreet applications we have today. More humanistic computing will be the result including the moving to 3D display and highly adaptive systems.

Mundie gave a brief example during this part of his talk of a controlling a robot representation in a 3D visual environment with objects, which were obeying first principle physical laws falling over as the robot bumped into them. Thought to myself, doesn’t look much different than a gaming environment. Then it struck me, damn, this looks familiar! Willing to place a very heavy bet that what he was actually demonstrating is a gaming computing environment from what was a small and very innovative French software company, Virtools. Virtools was acquired by my former employer Dassault Systemes a few years back and no, this is not something new that has yet to reach the market, which to me Mundie inferred, but a technology that has been in the market for several years now – it just doesn’t have that much visibility outside game development community.


  • Photosynth: A new technology developed at MS that takes numerous 2D photos and creates a composite to create a 3D composite model of the real world.
  • Robotic Receptionist: Plan to beta test at MS campus in next couple of months. Using an 8-core high performance computer, uses roughly 40% of computing power continuously – what a CPU hog! Most dual-core processors on one’s PC use only a few percent in any given computing task. Gave a quick demo, very bizarre is the best way to describe it. Still on the crude side, but not unlike something you would read in a Gibson SciFi novel.

Concurrency and Complexity: Applications that are loosely coupled, asynchronous, concurrent, composable, decentralized and resilient. This is what the Internet is bringing to the future of application development but the tools today to create such are really not there yet. Creates new challenges for computer programmers. Certainly creates challenges for MS who is so tied to the PC construct.

Making things simple for the end user is an incredibly difficult task for programmers. Developing applications that understand the context by which the user interacting with the computer is something that MS is still trying to figure out. Mundie readily admits that today, programs still make the user conform to the computer rather than the computer conform to the user. This is the next big issue to tackle in the comuter industry.

3 responses to “EmTech: Keynote, Microsoft’s Craig Mundie”

  1. Mike Hoogerland says:

    Hi John —

    Re: the Robotic Receptionist… Bill Crounse (MS Sr. Director of Healthcare) provided a demo of that along with a couple other future technologies they’re working on in a blog post last month. You can find it here: http://blogs.msdn.com/healthblog/archive/2008/08/18/microsoft-research-how-we-watch-the-computer-how-it-watches-us.aspx

    Pretty interesting stuff.



  2. John says:

    Thanks for the link Mike. And yes, definitely pretty interesting stuff being developed at the MS labs.

    Personally found the receptionist video to still be on the crude side and slightly disturbing. Creep me out a little. While I may not mind such an avatar at the local bank, going into a doctor’s office, particularly if I’m not feeling well and having to interact with an avatar, which may have difficulty understanding my current state, well that is a situation where I want a warm-blooded being to interact with, even if it is only the receptionist.

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