Category Archives: Press

TechFest 2009

TechFest is Microsoft Research’s annual show-and-tell. The whole division basically decamps to the Conference Center in Redmond and spend two or three days showing Microsoft employees what we spend our time doing. It’s a good way for them to get an overview, and hopefully make connections with researchers that are working in areas that are related to their products.

I did a long post a couple of years ago about TechFest when we were in the room that was open to the press, and therefore we were showing work that I could blog about publicly. Last year I was a bit quieter, because we were in the super-secret-rooms. This year we’re back in the press room so I’m more free to talk about the event, and what we’re showing. Expect to see a few posts here about how it’s going, some shots of our work, and some pointers to any press we get if we’re lucky.


Microsoft Research TechFest 2009 Virtual Event Room (There should be posts and video going up on this site from our press team, so it might be worth keeping an eye on it if you’re interested.

SenseCam on the BBC

For those who are lucky enough to have a UK IP address (so you can watch streaming TV from the BBC), the SenseCam (developed in our lab), which allows you to “log your life” by taking stills of what you’re looking at every 30 seconds, is on the BBCs iPlayer as part of a show called James May’s Big Ideas. James is usually seen as one of the three slightly sarcastic presenters of Top Gear. The episode is called Man-Machine. The section that the device is featured in starts at about 46 minutes.

May wears the device for a weekend, then sits down with Professor Alan Smeaton at Dublin’s City University to talk about some software that he’s developing in collaboration with Microsoft Research, which attempts to automatically make sense of all the images that the SenseCam has taken by breaking the stream into “significant events”.

The program is also being aired on Thursday at 7pm on BBC2, for those of you who prefer to sit down in front of a PROPER TV with a nice cup of tea.



Update: As mentioned in the comments, this snippet from the show is now on YouTube:

Microsoft: Touchscreens Old and Busted; Force Sensitivity Is New Hotness


Great bit of coverage on Gizmodo for some force-sensing work coming out of our team in Cambridge.

Microsoft: Touchscreens Old and Busted; Force Sensitivity Is New Hotness
“Researchers have come up with a prototype of their force-sensing tech that’ll let you apply different kinds of force to a device, like twisting or bending, to do stuff like flip through document pages or swing through applications.”

HCI 2020 report on the radio

A little bit of coverage of the HCI 2020 report launch on the World Service’s “Digital Planet” radio show. Here’s the points during the show where our coverage begins:

14:10 – Being Human segment begins

14:49 – Interview with Gary Marsden begins

15:50 – Interview with Abi Sellen begins

19:40 – End of segment

“Digital Planet speaks to Abigail Sellen from Microsoft Research Cambridge, one of the authors of the report, about her work in designing a clock that tells where people are in real time; at home, at work or in transit.”

Here’s a link directly to the broadcast. I think. In typical BBC style it may “age gracefully” and not be available in a week or so.

HCI 2020 report launched

A year ago Abi and Richard helped organize a gathering of 40+ “luminaries” from the field of Human-Computer Interaction to debate how the relationship between people and technology might change in the next decade. That event has resulted in a really great read, a report entitled “Being Human: Human Computer Interaction in the Year 2020“. It focuses on the changing nature of technology and how that enhances or in some cases conflicts with the value systems of individuals and groups. It makes recommendations for how to put people and their values at the centre of the design process in product development.

We had the launch event for the report today, at the Science Museum in London, with a small panel that included Bill Buxton and Bill Gaver, a gathering of the press, and a few demos of work from my team.

It’s cool to gradually watch the results of that make it out into the world. First up is a really great article from the BBC that clearly communicates many of the goals of the report. It’s accompanied by a video of Gary Marsden presenting Big Board, and Richard Harper presenting Epigraph.

`The panel (minus Richard Harper)

Phil Gosset showing off Kitchen Postcards.

Design and the Elastic Mind

I wish I could make it to New York to see the Design and the Elastic Mind exhibition at MOMA. It sounds like it allows you to see or experience many of the objects and interfaces that I’ve blogged about over the last few years, and many that I haven’t.


The website is a little dense, so the two items it includes from Socio-Digital Systems, both work by Anab Jain and Alex Taylor who work with me in Cambridge, are a little lost. The first is Domestic Gubbins, a set of four fictional “character” objects intended for the home, which have been used to test notions of what intelligence might mean in technology.


The second is Objects Incognito, which stretches how we might imagine the use of RFID tags on people and things.


Some SenseCam press

Great article in MIT’s Technology Review on the SenseCam, particularly focusing on the potential benefits for dementia sufferers…

“When Mrs. B was admitted to the hospital in March 2002, her doctors diagnosed limbic encephalitis, a brain infection that left her autobiographical memory in tatters. As a result, she can only recall around 2 percent of events that happened the previous week, and she often forgets who people are. But a simple device called SenseCam, a small digital camera developed by Microsoft Research, in Cambridge, U.K., dramatically improved her memory: she could recall 80 percent of events six weeks after they happened, according to the results of a recent study.”
Technology Review: A Camera to Help Dementia Patients

Economist article on new user interface directions


There’s an article in this weeks Economist focused on how difficult technology is to use, and some new directions for user interfaces that may go some way to making them simpler. In addition to some of the usual suspects (Apple’s iPhone and the Minority Report UI) it gives the Microsoft Cambridge lab some decent mention, as well as emphasizing .

One quote from Ken Wood points out our investments within the Research division on user interfaces:
“Part of the problem is that programmers have traditionally had more power than designers. Programmers put in place the myriad features they want; interface designers then struggle to wrap them all up in a product that is simple to use. The results, all too often, are clunky interfaces. But the balance of power may now be shifting to the designers. Ken Wood, deputy director of Microsoft’s research laboratory in Cambridge, England, says his company is putting greater emphasis on interface design. Three years ago, he says, none of his lab’s budget was earmarked for pure HCI research. Today, a quarter of the lab’s budget goes on it.”

Another mentions the HCI 2020 event that we held earlier in Seville:
“What comes next? In March this year Microsoft assembled a group of HCI experts to discuss this question at a conference near Seville called HCI 2020. Andrew Herbert, managing director of Microsoft’s Cambridge laboratory, told attendees that interface simplification is vital if the computing world is to be opened up to new consumers such as the elderly, children and people with little computer experience.”