Demonstration of Priorities & Notification Platform (2001)


December 2, 2001


Eric Horvitz & Bill Gates




Eric Horvitz with Bill Gates at Envision 2001

In this 2001 video, Bill Gates hosts Eric Horvitz at the Envision 2001 meeting. Eric demonstrates the Priorities and Notification Platform systems.

Priorities, fielded internally at Microsoft in 1998, demonstrated the use of machine learning to control email prioritization, alerting, and routing. Priorities is the first system to prioritize email by urgency. The system was an ancestor of the Outlook Mobile Manager and Outlook’s Focus Inbox. Priorities sorts incoming email by assigning a measure of the “expected cost of delayed review” to each incoming email message. The system learns by observing users interact with email or via direct input from users. In a mobile messaging function, Priorities selectively routes the most urgent messages to users’ cellphones via SMS messages. To perform this function, the system considers predictions about the amount of time that users will be away from their desktop machines.

Notification Platform was an experimental system constructed to explore and demonstrate general principles and architectures for balancing the value of information awareness and cost of interruption. The system demonstrates how sensing and inferences about context, attention, and activities of a user can be harnessed to guide the flow of information to users from multiple information sources across multiple devices and alerting modalities. Notification Platform employs Bayesian models that jointly predict likelihoods of activities, location, and attention from a multimodal stream of information, including desktop activity, facial pose recognition and conversation detection. Probabilistic and decision-theoretic procedures are used to perform an economic analysis, weighing the benefits of information awareness with the costs of interruption, assigning dollar values to each item coming into a “universal inbox.” Work on the Notification Platform was featured in a New York Times article in 2000.

Microsoft Notification Platform

Notification Platform