Sensors and Devices

Established: June 10, 2005

The Sensors and Devices Group invents and builds new interactive devices and experiences for users, leveraging recent developments across a broad range of technologies such as sensors, displays, wireless communications and device fabrication. We aim to seed new devices and technologies in the market and ultimately to change people’s perceptions of technology and how it can be used.

We complement the hardware, software and design skills in our group by working closely with collaborators from other disciplines across Microsoft and the wider community. The I3D group spun out of Sensors and Devices in 2012 to focus on various forms of 3D interaction based on novel hardware and algorithms, ultimately leading to Holoportation. In 2014 the Connected Play Initiative was also split out from the group as a separate initiative.

Here are some selected projects from the group:

 battery_lifetime bbc_micro_bit cs_tile disruptive_displays embedded_uls fs_tile hd_tile kf_tile mk_tile ng_tile p_tile ph_tile ap_tile rfid_performance rich_annotation sl_tile sc_tile sns_tile ss_tile sp_tile ts_tile tm_tile vm_tile


Can the Micro Bit inspire a million?Steve Hodges, principal researcher in Microsoft’s Cambridge, U.K. research lab, discusses the impact the Micro Bit mini-computer can have on the one million school children who will be coding on the robust devices. BBC News · 29 March 2016

How to inkjet-print an electronic circuitSteve Hodges, head of the sensors and devices group at Microsoft’s Cambridge U.K. research lab, wants to make it easy to prototype electronic devices, so he’s found a way to print circuits with an inkjet printer. Wired · 10 July 2015

Microsoft and the micro:bit: A million ways to inspire a generationLater this year the BBC together with Microsoft and other partners will provide every Year 7 student (age 11-12) in the United Kingdom with their own micro:bit personal computing device they can use to explore the possibilities of computer science. Microsoft News Centre UK · 7 July 2015

Home Inkjet Printer Fabricates Circuit Boards on Photo PaperThe ink costs $500 a bottle, but only a few cents are needed to make a circuit. Computerworld · 28 April 2014

5 Ways Microsoft Will Enable Your PC to See, Sense, and UnderstandAt Microsoft’s Silicon Valley Techfair, researchers showed how they’re taking the PC in a new direction, combining machine vision with a new independence so they may recognize and interpret what the PC sees and present that information in a useful context. PCWorld · 22 April 2014

Print a Working Paper Computer on an $80 InkjetInk laced with silver nanoparticles could make it a reality, to the joy of hobbyists. New Scientist · 3 October 2013

Microsoft’s Gadgeteer Aims to Make Creating Gadgets as Simple as Building with LegoMicrosoft is hoping the ‘Put tab A into slot B’ simplicity of its Gadgeteer hardware platform will make it easier to build prototype gadgets. ZDNet · 2 October 2013

Putting Your Work ID Badge to WorkAn Interactive Belt-worn Badge with a Retractable String-based Input Mechanism, a note from Microsoft Research Cambridge accepted for CHI 2013, describes a computing prototype device designed to provide quick, easy access to useful information. Inside Microsoft Research · 1 May 2013

The Sensors and Devices Group is always looking for interns and post-doc researchers. See Careers to apply.




Smart Vehicle Spaces
K. Venkatesh Prasad, Steve Hodges, Brian Noble, in Pervasive Computing, IEEE – Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, January 1, 2016, View abstract







Opening Up the Family Archive
Dave Kirk, Shahram Izadi, Abigail Sellen, Stuart Taylor, Richard Banks, Otmar Hilliges, in Proceedings of ACM Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Work (CSCW 2010), Association for Computing Machinery, Inc., February 1, 2010, View abstract, Download PDF


Mouse 2.0: Multi-touch meets the mouse
Nicolas Villar, Shahram Izadi, Dan Rosenfeld, Hrvoje Benko, John Helmes, Jonathan Westhues, Steve Hodges, Eyal Ofek, Alex Butler, Xiang Cao, Billy Chen, in Proceedings of UIST 2009, ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology. p. 33-42. UIST 2009 Best Paper Award., Association for Computing Machinery, Inc., October 1, 2009, View abstract, Download PDF



SenseCam and memory rehabilitation
Emma Berry, Georgina Browne, Steve Hodges, Gavin Smyth, Narinder Kapur, Lyndsay Williams, Alex Butler, Ken Woodberry, in Presentation at the 4th Satellite Symposium on Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, San Sebastian, July 2007, Microsoft Research, July 1, 2007, View abstract, Download PDF


SenseCam: A Retrospective Memory Aid
Steve Hodges, Lyndsay Williams, Emma Berry, Shahram Izadi, James Srinivasan, Alex Butler, Gavin Smyth, Narinder Kapur, Ken Woodberry, in Proceedings of the 8th International Conference of Ubiquitous Computing (UbiComp 2006), Springer Verlag, September 1, 2006, View abstract, Download PDF




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.NET Gadgeteer


November 14, 2012


Nicolas Villar and Steve Hodges

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First Look: SecondLight


August 21, 2012


Larry Larsen, Shahram Izadi, and Steve Hodges



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June 30, 2011


Nicolas Villar



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Swiss Experiment


February 13, 2009


Feng Zhao and Stewart Tansley

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January 27, 2009


Ken Wood, Stephen Emmott, and Steve Hodges

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PDC demo of SecondLight


October 28, 2008


Rick Rashid, Shahram Izadi, and Steve Hodges


Microsoft Research


The BBC micro:bit and Microsoft

Established: May 28, 2015

Try our Block/JavaScript editor! The BBC and partners, including Microsoft, announce the BBC micro:bit – a pocket-sized, codeable computer that allows children to get creative with technology. Up to 1 million micro:bits will be given to every 11 or 12 year old child in Year 7 or equivalent across the UK, for free. “The simple truth is, being a maker matters. Real computing, doing not just consuming, will drive a creative revolution in this country.…

Type–Hover–Swipe in 96 Bytes: A Motion Sensing Mechanical Keyboard

Established: April 26, 2014

We present a new type of augmented mechanical keyboard, sensing rich and expressive motion gestures performed both on and directly above the device. A low-resolution matrix of infrared (IR) proximity sensors is interspersed with the keys of a regular mechanical keyboard. This results in coarse but high frame-rate motion data. We extend a machine learning algorithm, traditionally used for static classification only, to robustly support dynamic, temporal gestures. We propose the use of…

Circuit Stickers and Conductive Printing

Established: September 1, 2013

Circuit stickers and conductive printing provide an accessible way to rapidly prototype all sorts of electronic circuits. We use a regular inkjet printer to instantly create conductive traces on regular photo paper and combine this with a special type of double-sided tape to stick down electronic sub-circuit elements which we imagine would be sold as a kit for hobbyists, students and researchers. Circuit stickers are a new way to build electronic prototypes by adhering physical…


Established: December 10, 2012

Digits is a wrist-worn sensor that recovers the full 3D pose of the user's hand without requiring any external sensing infrastructure or covering the hand itself (unlike data gloves). The system targets mobile settings and is specifically designed to be low-power and easily reproducible using only off-the-shelf hardware. We demonstrate the utility of Digits for a variety of application scenarios, including 3D gaming and eyes-free interaction on the move. Image Gallery


Established: May 27, 2012

This project explores a new technique for optical sensing through thin form-factor displays. It allows for detection of fingers and other physical objects close to or on the display surface. This essentially allows us to turn a regular LCD into a sensing surface that can be used for multi-touch and tangible computing applications. We are interested in both the underlying hardware and software aspects of this approach as well as the interaction techniques and application…


SideSight expands the multi-touch capabilities of small mobile devices beyond the screen. Infrared sensors embedded along each side of device are capable of detecting the presence and position of fingers within the proximity of the device. When the device is rested on a flat surface, such as a table, the user can carry out single and multi-touch gestures using the space around the device. This gives a larger input space than would otherwise be possible,…


Established: October 18, 2011

Vermeer is a novel interactive 360° viewable display suitable for a tabletop form factor. It provides viewpoint corrected stereoscopic 3D graphics to simultaneous users 360° around the display, without the need for eyewear or other user instrumentation. This work was presented in a paper at UIST 2011

Augmented Projectors

Established: October 17, 2011

In this project we investigate novel handheld projector systems for indoor spaces. These projection-based devices are “aware” of their environment in ways not demonstrated previously. They offer both spatial awareness, where the system infers location and orientation of the device in 3D space, and geometry awareness, where the system constructs the 3D structure of the world around it, which can encompass the user as well as other physical objects, such as furniture and walls.

KinectFusion Project Page

Established: August 9, 2011

This project investigates techniques to track the 6DOF position of handheld depth sensing cameras, such as Kinect, as they move through space and perform high quality 3D surface reconstructions for interaction. Other collaborators (missing from the list below): Richard Newcombe (Imperial College London); David Kim (Newcastle University & Microsoft Research); Andy Davison (Imperial College London)    

Battery Research at Microsoft

Established: March 19, 2011

Mobile devices such as smartphones, along with other battery operated devices, are energy constrained. While hardware capabilities have increased tremendously over the last ten years, battery energy density has only doubled. In this project we are exploring several techniques to extend the battery life of mobile devices. Our vision is to create a fully-capable phone which runs for a week without recharging under normal usage. Our work spans innovation across all layers of the battery…

PreHeat: Controlling Home Heating With Occupancy Prediction

Established: March 2, 2011

Home heating uses more energy than any other residential energy expenditure, making increasing the efficiency of home heating an important goal for saving money and protecting the environment. We have built a home-heating system, PreHeat, that automatically programs your thermostat based on when you are home. PreHeat’s goal is to reduce the amount of time a household’s thermostat needs to be on without compromising the comfort of household members. PreHeat System PreHeat builds a predictive…

HomeOS: Enabling smarter homes for everyone

Established: September 30, 2010

It is no secret that homes are ever-increasing hotbeds of new technology such as set-top boxes, game consoles, wireless routers, home automation devices, tablets, smart phones, and security cameras. This innovation is breeding heterogeneity and complexity that frustrates even technically-savvy users’ attempts to improve day-to-day life by implementing functionality that uses these devices in combination. For instance, it is impossible for most users…

.NET Gadgeteer

Established: September 20, 2010

Microsoft .NET Gadgeteer is a rapid prototyping platform for small electronic gadgets and embedded hardware devices. It combines the advantages of object-oriented programming, solderless assembly of electronics using a kit of hardware modules, and quick physical enclosure fabrication using computer-aided design. Microsoft .NET Gadgeteer is a rapid prototyping platform for small electronic gadgets and embedded hardware devices. It combines the advantages of object-oriented programming, solderless assembly of electronics using a kit of hardware modules, and…


Established: July 26, 2010

 SecondLight is a new rear projection-vision surface technology that augments the typical interactions afforded by multi-touch and tangible tabletops with the ability to project and sense both through and beyond the display. Watch the video People Shahram Izadi, Steve Hodges, Stuart Taylor, Dan Rosenfeld, Nicholas Villar, Alex Butler and Jonathan Westhues Related Links Sensors and Devices Group


Established: January 19, 2010

The Peppermill project is an exploration into the design space of user interface devices that are able to source their power from the physical effort involved in interacting with them. We refer to this kind of device as being interaction-powered. In the prototype Peppermill device, we use a geared DC motor and a simple electronic circuit to enable interaction-powered rotary input. When turned, the circuit provides a temporary power source for an embedded device, and…

RFID Performance Testing

Established: January 1, 2007

Radio frequency identification (RFID) may be used to automatically detect, locate and/or identify objects, making it an ideal candidate for many pervasive computing applications. As RFID technology improves in terms of cost and performance, it is increasingly being explored in a variety of applications, ranging from eldercare through to the smart supply chain. However, while passive UHF RFID has many benefits over other RFID variants, reliable operation as the tag moves in the environment is…


SenseCam is a wearable camera that takes photos automatically. Originally conceived as a personal ‘Black Box’ accident recorder, it soon became evident that looking through images previously recorded tends to elicit quite vivid remembering of the original event. This exciting effect has formed the basis of a great deal of research around the world using SenseCam and the device is now available to buy as the Vicon Revue. There is lots of information about SenseCam…

Microsoft Research blog

Touch Mouse Captures Industry Accolade

Posted by Rob Knies Sometimes, things can go sideways. There are an infinite number of ways that a project can get derailed. We’re human. We understand this.But every once in a while, it seems as if everything just stays on track, from start to finish. That’s the way Hrvoje Benko is feeling right now.On Feb. 23, Engadget, a web magazine focusing on consumer electronics, published the results of its February 2012

Microsoft Research Blog

.NET Gadgeteer: Launch Pad for Devices

By Douglas Gantenbein, Senior Writer, Microsoft News Center When Microsoft Research hardware engineer Steve Hodges was developing SenseCam—a wearable digital camera that automatically takes pictures that track the wearer’s activities—he needed months to create a workable prototype. “It took me six months to get something working, and another person six months to write the software, and then another six months for each of us to finesse it,” says Hodges, who manages the Sensors and Devices…

August 2011

Microsoft Research Blog

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