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Microsoft's 10 most interesting research projects

These tools could hitting a PC near you soon

Research and development plays a huge part in the tools and techniques we'll see in the future. We've taken a look at 10 Microsoft research projects to see how we'll benefit in years to come.

Research and development is hugely important when it comes to the web. It's through R&D programmes that new tools are trialed and if successful eventually rolled out across the net.

Microsoft has a large R&D department, where products are dreamt up and put through their paces before being rolled out to the general public. We looked at 10 R&D projects Microsoft is currently working on. A few of these projects have already resulted in shipping products; others may never see the light of day - they are meant as a proof of concept. Some could change how we do computing altogether. Yet, all of them are driven by bright thinkers who are working to solve real-world technical problems.

Codename: Eagle 1

In a major disaster, the fire and police services as well as local government and other public safety officials coordinate a search and rescue mission for survivors. Some of the techniques they use, such as closing roads and creating a chain of command, are tried-and-true measures.

However, one of the challenges is in coordinating the IT infrastructure needed for collaboration and communication. In most cases, this is a major challenge, especially when any existing infrastructure has been damaged or is now inoperable. Microsoft is working on a new project called Eagle 1, which is a data visualisation and mapping tool.

"After any major disaster, during the debrief, the first thing that always comes up is the communication and collaboration," says a researcher at Microsoft.

"Trying to get real-time information from all of the agencies involved to make life-saving decisions, the more quality information you can have, the better. There's a difference between information you can use and just raw data.

"The physical side is done to death, the hands-on side is mastered. The technology has been too slick and high-tech, but it has not been able to present the information in a form you can react to."

Eagle 1 pulls information from multiple databases and uses geospatial mapping technology to create an interactive map that would show, for example, all the schools, military bases, hospitals in the affected area. Plus it would show how many people are in the hospitals, current evacuation models and casualties or danger zones, even a plume model that could show where a gas leak is heading.

All the data is shown in a real-time interactive map using Virtual Earth, but the key is how Eagle 1 pulls data from many different sources (such as from both Oracle and SAP databases) and presents the results on one screen that can even run on a Microsoft Surface table. Microsoft said the process of configuring the data extractions will likely involve a team of disaster specialists.

NEXT PAGE: Surface

  1. Eagle 1
  2. Surface
  3. Pictionaire
  4. Touch Wall
  5. Paris/Social Streams and LucidTouch
  6. OSLO and Visual Studio 2010
  7. Robotic Receptionist

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