Tag Archives: Microsoft

From The Vault: April 4, 1975

Microsoft Founded

Pirates of the Silicon Valley

Before apps and Google Maps and the world was at your fingertips, the hottest device in the 70’s might’ve just been the typewriter. Until two guys from Washington decided to change all that. Bill Gates and Paul Allen started Microsoft on April 4, 1975 to make software for a device known as the Altair 8800.

After the company bankrolled their first million, Microsoft licensed its first operating system, MS-DOS, for IBM. That was back when you had to type commands to open programs because it had no graphical interface.

When 1985 rolled around, Windows was born. A new operating system with a graphical interface that would provide drop down menus, scroll bars, and other features that seem elementary to today’s standards. Microsoft went public at the mere price of $21 a share—about what you’d pay for a movie ticket today. Before the 80’s were over, Microsoft was the world’s largest PC software company.

Personal computers had made their way into homes and offices around the world by 1995, and Microsoft took their Windows Operating System to another level with Windows 95, selling 7 million copies in the first month of its release. The OS would introduce the world to Internet Explorer—remember that fossil of a browser?

Today Microsoft continues to innovate and has become one of the biggest companies in the world. They have stretched their arms in not only the video game console world with the X-Box brand, but tablets and cell phones and all kinds of other tech too. We’ve come along way from inserting paper into the typewriter, wouldn’t you say, Master Chief?

HTC Vive VR Headset

HTC Vive VR Headset Spotlight Image

HTC Makes Virtual Reality A Reality. Again.

By now, you’re probably already counting down the days until you can get your hands on upcoming Virtual Reality headsets like Facebook-acquired Oculus Rift and Microsoft’s Project HaloLens. So we’re happy to tell you about another VR device to add to your wish list—the HTC Vive VR Headset, developed in collaboration with Valve. Like Rift and HaloLens, you strap the headset to your face (yes, you can keep your glasses on) to immerse yourself the in the virtual world. Vive VR has two 1200 x 1080 pixel screens (one for each eye), which refresh at 90Hz and promise to deliver a smooth journey, sans the nausea. The headset prototype recently introduced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona connected with laser boxes positioned around the room, though HTC claims that the consumer version will use Infrared Blasters like the ones your smartphone and tablet are already using.

Your Vive will also connect to your computer, and there’s a controller for each hand—each one equipped with a trigger button, another button on the handle and a circular trackpad. So, what can this badboy do? HTC showed off three interactive, virtual experiences. The first was underwater, where the user found himself on the deck of a shipwreck, where schools of fish swam by, and even switched direction if you reached towards them. You could move around the deck, check out the ocean floor and oh snap! What’s that? A giant whale? Yep. Another demo was called Tilt Brush, a drawing application that allows users to create 3D art in mid-air, turning all the space around you into a giant canvas that you can walk around and view from any angle. And of course, since VR has to have “useful” and “educational” purposes, there are also apps like a Surgeon Simulator and robot repair. But maybe the most exciting part of the HTC Vive? It’s set to hit shelves this year, just in time for the holidays. Dear Santa…

Project HaloLens

Project HaloLens Spotlight Image

Your Invisible Friend Just Got Real.

Move over Oculus Rift, and take a seat, Glassholes. There’s new wearable tech in the works that’s poised to blow everything away—Project HoloLens from…wait for it…Microsoft. A seven-year project in the making, Project HoloLens is the brainchild of Alex Kipman, the very same man who brought us Microsoft’s Kinect technology. This augmented reality headset is being dubbed as “the first fully untethered holographic computer” and it’s pretty nasty.

Nasty enough to trick your brain into seeing light as matter, or, in layman’s terms, to perceive a hologram, and interact with it. The holograms are created using the HoloLens’s “light engine” in which light particles bounce around millions of times before entering each lens (there’s one for each eye), where they ricochet some more between blue, green and red glass, then eventually reach the back of your eye. This bouncy process tricks your brain into seeing holographic images. Cool. But that’s only the beginning.

The HoloLens is also capable of capturing the environment around you, including sound, space, and motion. Its depth camera has a giant field of vision that spans 120 by 120 degrees, meaning it can still detect what your arms are doing even if they’re spread out all the way. Once its 18 sensors collect all this information, its “brain” processes the massive amounts of data (we’re talking terabytes per second) by its onboard CPU, GPU and HPU (holographic processing unit).

The interface is truly incredible, being operated entirely by voice and gesture commands. Engineers are still working on a feature called “holding” that lets you move holographic objects around. There are already sensors in place that can track your gaze and adjust the display accordingly.

So, what can it do? Let’s start with Augmented Reality. It can assess your physical environment and place holograms within it, meshing the digital and analog world seamlessly. So, if you’re playing a game, one of its characters can jump freely from your springy couch to the hard glass of your coffee table and bounce accordingly. Other demonstrations allowed one Wired reporter to sculpt virtual toys that could then become real with the help of a 3D printer, Skype with a motorcycle designer in Spain to paint a 3D fender on an actual, physical prototype, and receive step-by-step guidance on installing a light switch from a virtual electrician.

Want to go to Mars? NASA is already way ahead of you. NASA rocket scientist (seriously) Jeff Norris has been working closely with Kipman to perfect a virtual Mars-scape that not only provides the virtual experience of being on the red planet, it can allow scientists to monitor and control the Curiosity rover’s comings and goings across the Martian surface and collaborate on missions.

So. When can we have one? According to Kipman it will be available in the “Windows 10 timeframe” but most likely it will be a limited release, possibly to developers only at first. But hey, we weren’t planning on hitting up Mars before then anyway, so we’re cool with waiting for the virtual version.

Xbox One Console

Xbox One Console

XBOX ONE, COMING SOON!

If you’re like everyone else and their mother, you’ve been eagerly anticipating Microsoft’s release of the successor to the wildly popular Xbox 360, the Xbox One. Last week, the company announced some of its highlights, but no exact release date just yet (surprise, surprise). Here’s what we do know…

In case you’re wondering why it’s called the “One” when it’s actually the third console to be released, the answer is simple. It will literally house all the entertainment your living room could ever need, all in ONE incredible console. The Xbox One will feature three operating systems in one, so you can game, watch live TV (and Skype chat with your friends while you do it) or listen to music seamlessly, plus its ridiculously reactive technology will satisfy your every whim in an instant. Say you want to switch from gaming to TV. Just say the word. Literally. The Xbox one responds to your voice, seamlessly switching from one input to another with commands like, “Xbox, game,” or “Go to music,” or “Watch TV.” Every console comes with Kinect, so it can naturally respond not only to your voice, but your movements and gestures as well.

Your One will get to know you, and will then customize your personal home screen to reflect what you like.And of course, there are the games. Microsoft has promised 15 exclusive games within the first year of Xbox One. Plus, since it’s powered by the cloud, you’ll never have to download another game update again. As they say in their new TV spot, Microsoft wants you to have a relationship with your TV. With a console as accommodating as this one, this is one relationship that really could be “the One.”

Microsoft Lifecam Studio

Microsoft Lifecam Studio

Small Screen Star.

Remember when you were discovered as an actor/model a few years ago? You happened to be stopping a robbery at your local corner store when the security camera caught your smile right after you punched the armed robber. To you it was just instinct, but to the world, a star was born. So knowing this and the fact that all cameras love you, we thought you really needed to hear about the Microsoft LifeCam Studio ($77.00).

This HD 1080p video camera for your computer delivers a picture so clear that any screenshot of a Skype conversation with you will become billboard worthy. The sound capture from the top-mounted microphone is remarkable and if you download the HD supporting app you can get a 16:9 picture ratio that brings online chatting to a whole new cinematic level. So grab yourself one of these and get ready to take the world over one small screen at a time.

Xbox 720

Xbox 720

Countdown To Xbox 720.

Most awesome things in life have codenames. Agent 007. Project Argo. Smooth Parmeseany (that’s what all the girls in your high school called you). The Xbox 720 is no different. According to some reports, the new console is code-named Xbox Infinity or Xbox Loop, and like anything else worthy of a codename, rumors about it are swirling. Leaks have reported that the Xbox 720 will feature “an eight-core x64 1.6GHz CPU from AMD that makes it three times as powerful as the 360, and will be available to consumers in two configurations: a 320 GB “Arcade” model and a 500 GB “Pro” edition.” Other leaked documents claim that Microsoft wants to position the new console as a complete living room entertainment device, with 1080p 3D support, Blu-ray player and a AMD 7000 series multi-GPU. And that it will feature an improved an enhanced Microsoft Kinect gesture-control system. Sounds pretty awesome.

But not all the rumors are good ones. As far as pricing goes, some reports claim that game prices will rise to $70, the system itself will cost $500, plus a $300 annual subscription fee. Yowzers. Beyond that, murmurs claim the Kinect 2.0 will limit the amount of DVD’s you watch with friends, require an always-on Internet connection, and maybe worst of all, won’t be backwards compatible with the games you already own. Yowzers again. So when will the rumors be put to rest and the Xbox 720 finally hit the shelves? Again, there are many dates floating around in cyberspace about the release date, with some guessing a release in time for the 2013 holiday season, and others projecting Spring 2014. Sigh. With such unreliable sources, you’re going to have to infiltrate Microsoft itself to learn the truth. But do us a favor, and let us know, ok? The suspense is killing us.