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Seattle, Scientific Innovation, and Microsoft Research

June 1, 2012 | Posted by Microsoft Research Blog

Posted by Rob Knies

Seattle Science Festival 

Fifty years ago, the Century 21 Exposition—the Seattle World’s Fair—provided visitors with a vision of the future. With its gleaming Monorail and its towering Space Needle, the fair trumpeted the advances made possible by science and space travel, thereby extending a Pacific Northwest legacy of innovation and creativity.

Now, during the golden anniversary of Century 21, Seattle is celebrating the scientific achievements of today and tomorrow with the Seattle Science Festival. The event, which runs throughout the month of June, is the region’s first large-scale, community-wide celebration of science and technology.

On June 2, in the shadow of the Space Needle, the festival presents its Science EXPO Day, a free event featuring more than 150 family-friendly, hands-on experiments, exhibits, demonstrations, interactive activities, games, and live performances.

Naturally, the event proved irresistible to Microsoft Research scientists.

Microsoft is a project sponsor for the event, but, more importantly, Microsoft is a beneficiary of the region’s proud tradition of cutting-edge innovation—and a key contributor to extending that tradition.

“Microsoft Research is pleased to play a role in the first-ever Seattle Science Festival,” said Peter Lee, corporate vice president of Microsoft Research Redmond. “The opportunity to interact directly with the public, from families to fellow researchers, is both exciting and informative for us.”

More than 850 scientists, based at Microsoft Research labs around the world, aim to advance the state of the art in more than 55 areas of computer science—with the goal of inventing the future.

During the Science EXPO Day, open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., researchers will help visitors learn about the science behind some of their groundbreaking projects—and give them a sneak peak at new projects and areas of investigation being pursued by Microsoft Research. Some of them could evolve into something used by hundreds of millions of users each day.

The Microsoft researchers will show seven demos during the Science EXPO Day:

  • Microsoft Translator: Learn about Microsoft Research’s contributions to this engine, which powers the popular Bing Translator service, and how it has become available as an app for Windows Phone.
  • Kodu: Kids get a chance to get creative with this new, visual programming language designed to enable children to create games by using a game controller for the Xbox 360.
  • IllumiShare: See how people from across town or from half a world away can sketch together with real ink and paper, how remote meeting attendees can interact with whiteboards, and how children can share real toys during virtual play dates. All this is enabled via a low-cost device that looks like an ordinary desk lamp.
  • Cliplets: Explore the novel imagery of Cliplets, which occupy the space between still photographs and video. This app provides a simple yet expressive way to mix static and dynamic elements from a video clip.
  • WorldWide Telescope: You might have heard of this service, which has reaped great renown for its ability to let users roam through beautiful, seamless imagery of the universe using scientific data from telescopes, observatories, and institutions across the globe. But you probably haven’t been able to explore the heavens on a jumbo video screen as will festival attendees.
  • Kinect: Here’s another project that might ring a bell. It is, after all, the fastest selling consumer electronics device ever. But what’s behind its groundbreaking skeletal-tracking and audio features? Find out—and take a look into the Holoflector!
  • Beamatron: Finally, here’s another example of science fiction having graduated into reality. Beamatron combines a projector and a depth-sensing camera on a pan-title moving head that can place the projected image almost anywhere in a room. The depth camera enables the projected graphics to react in physically appropriate ways.

“We hope the people who come by and see our exhibit will learn something about computer science,” Lee said, “and may be even inspired by the experience.”