Microsoft Build 2018: Cortana befriends Alexa, Project Brainwave in action, and other major takeaways

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New Delhi | Updated: May 8, 2018 6:40:57 PM

Microsoft Build 2018 primarily targeted at the coders and developers, also saw Nadella imparting information on what Microsoft has been doing to protect users’ privacy and simultaneously preventing cyber-attacks.

satya nadella, microsoft, microsoft build 2018Nadella was seen imparting information on what Microsoft has been doing to protect users’ privacy and simultaneously preventing cyber-attacks

“Privacy is a human right. We at Microsoft ensure to protect this human right,” CEO Satya Nadella highlighted in his keynote speech at Microsoft annual Build 2018 conference underway in the home turf Seattle. The Build 2018 primarily targeted at the coders and developers, also saw Nadella imparting information on what Microsoft has been doing to protect users’ privacy and simultaneously preventing cyber-attacks. However, the announcements on the company’s plans to elaborate the Artificial Intelligence capabilities were in abundance.

Here are the major takeaways from the keynote speech of Satya Nadella at Build 2018 conference:


While the first few minutes of Satya Nadella’s keynote speech brought online privacy and the impending GDPR enforcement into prime focus, the later parts of the speech, interjected by recursive talks on possibilities of AI, were on Microsoft’s cloud platform Azure. In a bid to remodel all the devices to comply with ubiquitous computing, Nadella announced a new AI model called Azure Sphere that integrates all the versions of Azure, namely, Azure Stack, Azure IoT Edge, and more, under an umbrella. He also told developers attending the event that the Azure IoT Edge is now open for all to customisation.

Microsoft is also expanding its motion-controlled Kinect platform to Azure under the new Project Kinect for Azure. The Azure AI services coupled with the motion detection by Kinect will “perceive the people, places and things around them”.

Partnerships with Qualcomm and DJI

Microsoft CEO took to the stage to announce two new partnerships for the hardware equipment to streamline the expansion of AI-based Azure IoT Edge platform for industries. Microsoft is tying up with Qualcomm to harness the latter’s industry-level security cameras to integrate the Azure Sphere, as well as IoT Edge, to monitor the offices and workplaces. DJI will also equip its drones with Microsoft’s Azure Sphere platform for a 360-degree surveillance by allowing developers to use the SDK on Windows 10 for both camera data and flight plan.

MS Build, Seattle 2018

Project Brainwave

Microsoft has announced Project Brainwave in partnership with chipmaker Intel to introduce a hardware-level architecture for real-time AI calculations. The chipsets provided by Intel called a field programmable gate array or FPGA will be deployed by Microsoft to “make real-time AI calculations at competitive cost and with the industry’s lowest latency, or lag time”.

Project Brainwave will also be connected with Azure Machine Learning platform, the preview of which was demonstrated by Microsoft at the conference. Project Brainwave can scan images with the help of AI to detect any anomalies and “flag false positives”. This will eliminate the need for manual surveillance of the equipment to discover defects. It will also be able to track the skeletal structures with the help of more sensors.

Cortana + Alexa

Following the announcement last year, Microsoft at its Build conference showed the world how two separate and distinct voice assistant can be friends. Microsoft and Amazon showed the fruits of the collaboration between them to harness the interoperability of both Alexa and Cortana. Megan Saunders, General Manager of Cortana, demonstrated the collaboration by asking Alexa to order milk and then checking her schedule and sending an email using Cortana.

Alexa Senior Vice President Tom Taylor then ordered Cortana to look up a restaurant, followed by a reservation enquiry. He then asked Cortana to open Alexa, which was subsequently asked to book an Uber. He later asked Cortana what exactly she thinks of Alexa, to which she replied with a quirky answer.

The combination of both the voice assistant is still nascent and not available to developers or customers. However, Saunders said that interested people can get a track of the updates on the release of the service by visiting a website, dedicated for the same purpose.

Mixed Reality

Microsoft Mixed Reality is now getting additional features to win back the developers after the recent lacklustre of the headsets from various partners. While the Mixed Reality prospects a host of new features in the virtual world, it has not really been able to set off properly. Mixed Reality is getting two major features – Microsoft Remote Assist and Microsoft Layout.

While the former assists the Mixed Reality users to collaborate with other users over video calling and image sharing to chalk out a plan or discuss some proposal remotely, the latter involves the construction of virtual objects and figuring out their feasibility if they are brought into the real world at a particular location. Microsoft Layout will allow creating 3D models of machines, room layouts in the real-world scale to find out the dimensions and the space they would require to fit.

Your Phone

Microsoft seems to have not lost the phone war at all. It is now methodising  its offerings to attract Android and iOS users to adopt Windows as their preferred platform. Microsoft has launched the ‘Your Phone’ for Windows 10 devices that lets the Android and iOS users mirror their phones on the desktop. All of the notifications, text messages, and photos will be cast to the desktop, thereby, minimising the need to look at your phone every once in a while for notifications and messages. The Your Phone feature will start rolling out to the Windows Insider testers later this month.

Microsoft is also expanding the Timeline feature – introduced last month as a part of the Windows 10 April 2018 update – for far-reaching usability. The Timeline feature chronicles all the activities of a Windows 10 user across devices in terms of the apps, files, and other Office work. The Timeline feature will soon provide the history of all the activities carried out on the Microsoft apps such as Word, Excel, Outlook, and more on Android and iOS devices.

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