Monthly Archives: April 2007

Watch Microsoft MIX07 keynote live

MIX07 webcastWhile most of the world is in Las Vegas getting some sleep before the big day ahead of them tomorrow – watching the MIX07 Ray Ozzie keynote live in the Venetian Hotel, some of us unfortunate souls (including Betsy Weber) who cannot make it to Vegas are forced to find alternatives. But all hope is not lost.

Like Microsoft do with most event keynotes, they will be streaming the MIX07 keynote live in a webcast. You can find the Windows Media streams hosted at:

The keynote starts at 9:30am PDT. Even though this is streaming technology, you might still want to get in early to reserve your ‘spot’. If it fills up like it does with the PDC keynote webcasts, then you don’t want to be late. You’ll also be treated to a ‘best-of’ from Microsoft’s classical music collection – never to be missed.

Jeff posts first photos of Microsoft Expression Commemorative Edition

Jeff Sandquist, manager for Microsoft’s enthusiast programs Channel9 and On10, has posted the first pictures of the much anticipated (by Long) special commemorative edition of Microsoft Expression from his spy T-Mobile Dash phone at MIX.

Microsoft Expression Commemorative Edition photo by Jeff Sandquist

In true spy-photography spirit, Jeff’s photo is mildly blurry just barely enough to make out the contents of his photo. Each commemorative edition is a copy of Expression Studio featuring unique artwork on its cover which are inspired by pencil drawings (every single one appears to be different) – there’s even a little story behind how it ties together with Expression. Since this is a limited edition only to be given to the attendees of MIX07, surely they’re worth something on eBay.

I will be posting all the details as well as high-resolution photos when the MIX attendees get them in about 24 hours. 🙂

Conan O’Brien at Intel HQ

Conan O’Brien at Intel

This trickled down from Intel’s PR, and I found it pretty cool so I thought I’d post it here. Comedian Conan O’Brien was at Intel last Thursday to film a skit because Intel helped sponsor his San Francisco shows. Two Intel employees coincidentally blogged about their experiences meeting Conan under the same heading of “How I met Conan O’Brien”. Tony Chung regrets not having a camera at hand and Jaime scored some VIP tickets to the show.

Conan O’Brien at Intel videoSince we don’t have Conan on public television in Australia, I haven’t been following Conan’s shows but I like it whatever chance I do get to see it on YouTube. My impression is that Conan has quite a soft spot for technology having hosted Microsoft’s CES keynote in 2005 with Bill Gates. That was quite memorable.

Conan seems to be writing his own blog (or he’s employed a very good writer) to record his thoughts about the experience and they’ve got a nice behind-the-scenes video of what happened at Intel. The bit at the end with the school kids is priceless.

His skit at Intel should have aired in last night’s Last Show. I’ll be looking for it on YouTube. 😉

Update: The Intel video has since aired on the show. The video clip can be found here.

Tjeerd Hoek, director of Windows UX, also leaves Microsoft (Design)

Tjeerd HoekA Microsoft employee who worked with Tjeerd said only a few weeks ago, “I hope Microsoft is able to get great use out of him – he has true talent.” I guess he didn’t see this coming either.

The trend is clear, Microsoft is losing some of its most dedicated, most talented and most inspiring employees from the Windows client group. It started with the father of Windows, Jim Allchin; followed closely by the person who changed the perception of user experience, Hillel Cooperman; most recently the graphics-wonderwoman, Jenny Lam; and now the top-gun of Windows User Experience, Tjeerd Hoek.

It shocks me as much as it probably shook the entire Microsoft Design group to comprehend such a key figure leave the company so unexpectedly. As someone who chats with him frequently (we have some very memorable conversations) and have met him in-person at CES this January, it didn’t cross my mind even once that he wanted to do something else. He was so passionate and involved with everything he did. But then again, I said the same about Jenny Lam. 😉

Windows NeptuneEven though it is a bit hard to believe, it’s even harder to believe Tjeerd has been with Microsoft for 13 years, nearly as remarkable as Gandalf Allchin’s 17. He joined Microsoft in 1994 straight out of a masters in industrial design from Holland with the ambition to “do something meaningful and design products that are being used by lots and lots of people”. Over those years, he’s worked on everything from Microsoft At Work, Microsoft Office, Windows “Neptune”, Windows XP, MSN Explorer and most recently (for the longest amount of time), Windows Vista.

There’s a lot of experience, expertise and PowerPoint slides at stake here. Microsoft is not only losing an employee, but an employee who knows how it all works, how teams works best, the strengths and weaknesses of each designer, and general user experience expertise. Every person who I’ve come across who’s had experience working with him or for him speaks highly of him. So far yet, there doesn’t seem to be anyone replacing his position.

Frog DesignTjeerd has taken up a position for Executive Creative Director at Frog Design, a leading industrial design company with offices around the world, including Seattle. I assume Tjeerd has joined Frog because many of his former Microsoft Design colleagues are there, most notably Cees Van Dok who worked with him on Windows Vista. But also, Frog has a rich history of supporting and developing for new Microsoft technologies including most recently, Windows Vista and Expression. Some of their recent works include the candy-licious WPF-powered Yahoo Messenger.

Hopefully, I’ll catch up with Tjeerd next week to find out about why he left, the fate of his infamous PowerPoint deck as well as everything surrounding Microsoft and Frog Design and who he thinks I should stalk next. Until then, I wish him the best of luck at Frog and it certainly won’t be the last we’ll see of Tjeerd in the world of Windows. 🙂

Update: Frog Design has now published a press release showing off their new catch.

Live Maps (Apocalypse Edition) shows us where we look at in online maps

Danyel Fisher, a Microsoft Researcher at Redmond has developed a tool that allows him to visualize and study the behaviour of online maps users to better understand what they are looking at and why. Today, Microsoft Research has published his paper “How We Watch the City: Popularity and Online Maps” with his theory and findings, which he will also present at the ACM CHI 2007 Conference.

One way of conceptualizing physical spaces is to look at where people notice, remember, or note them. Computer-assisted methods give us new tools based on implicit, rather than explicit, data about how users have examined and travelled online through cities. “Hotmap” is a tool that visualizes how people have used, an interactive mapping service, looking at what parts of the maps they find most compelling.

His tool, “Hotmap”, generates a heatmap overlay over Virtual Earth imagery with areas most viewed represented by brighter spots. He can look at an entire country, region, state or even down to a specific city. At first sight, it might look like the United States is covered in lava, but I assure you it’s just a trick of the mind. That is, until the apocalypse.

Hotmap at US nation level
A heat map of popularity of tiles over the US at level 12 (approximately 40 meters per pixel scale). The brightest points have on the order of half a million hits, while the dimmest visible points show closer to a thousand hits. Note that usage patterns at this scale seem to follow population.

Hotmap at Los Angeles
Picturing the City. The greater Los Angeles and Orange County area, at zoom level 17. Note that while the population of the area is very broadly spread out, social focus is far more limited. Interest follows population and coastlines, and points of interest, including Disneyland.

Hotmap at Las Vegas
The greater Las Vegas area, at zoom level 18 (0.6 mpp). [Long’s note: Interest follows the strip]
Hotmap at Seattle
Seattle downtown and suburbs at zoom level 19 (0.3 mpp). Interest follows local popularity.

Danyel comes a conclusion of,

We have seen several apparent motivating factors for the use of maps. Collectively, users seem to look at particularly unusual imagery, at roads, borders, and edges; and at homes and neighborhoods (presumably their own). The vast majority of hits are focused on a fairly small area, following population, suggesting that largely, users currently find use of the tools for looking at natural scenery less compelling then they do city imagery. Last, the tools here suggest that visualizing the use of online spaces can provide valuable insight into the space.

What benefits might such fun tool provide? Well it should gives satellite imaging providers a much better understanding of areas that require more priority for high resolution imagery, or places to generate 3D map data for. So you can see your house, quicker.

Interview with Microsoft Researcher Li-Yi Wei on HDR hallucination project

Microsoft Research
HDR hallucination
(Top) Image under-exposed without processing.
(Bottom) Under-exposure with HDR hallucination post-processing.

Nearly 2 weeks ago, I saw something intriguing trickle down to my Google Reader from Microsoft Research, a research paper just published on a piece of technology that could revolutionize digital photography post-processing called “HDR Hallucination“.

Not only was I treated with pages filled with before-and-after comparison but also a great screencast of the technology and tools in-action. I knew from the second I saw the lightbulb example, I wanted to get my hands on this. Two weeks later, I didn’t quite get the chance to play with the software (no matter how much I bribed the lawyers), but I got to do the second-best thing, chatting with the project team themselves. Here is what he had to say.

Who are you? How are you involved in this project?

My name is Li Yi Wei and I am a researcher at Microsoft Research Asia. You could find more information about me on my web page and curriculum vitae.

How did this project come about? Did you wake up one day screaming “we need to make a HDR hallucination tool”?

One day, Kun Zhou, the 3rd author of the paper and one of the most creative people I have seen in my life, told me over lunch that he had a brilliant idea.

HDR imaging and display has been a hot thing in both research and industry, but so far no good solution has been offered for converting LDR (low-dynamic range) content into HDR (high-dynamic range), especially for historical documents where you don’t have the luxury to take multiple photos with different exposures. This is a classical ill-posed and under-constrained problem, and if you use traditional computer vision techniques, it is never going to work.

Since both Kun and I are ‘graphics people’ instead of ‘vision people’, we decide to attack an easier problem: instead of building a fully automatic and robust system (vision approach), we simply build a user-friend tool so that we can leverage human intelligence for good results (graphics approach). My main contribution is to use texture synthesis (one of my expertise) as the major tool for hallucination.

HDR balls
Original image LDR version (left). Original image HDR version (middle). Original image with ‘Hallucination’ processing (right).
By comparison, the HDR hallucination is almost identical to the real HDR.

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