Well, here we are in the middle of day two and I’ve finally got more than a few seconds to write up yesterday’s experience. It was an absolutely full-on day – 6.30am start and a 11pm finish (originally scheduled to go to midnight but the students got an early mark).
The day started with a series of shuttles picking us up from the hotel and taking us over to one of the dozens and dozens of buildings that make up the Microsoft Redmond campus. After weaving our way to building 122 we spent the first little while having breakfast and doing initial introductions. At 9.15 we got the proper stuff underway.
Disclaimer: Unfortunately a lot of the stuff we saw/talked about was under NDA and so I can’t give much detail here (which is also why my twitterfeed went quiet from time to time).
The first session was Popfly with an introduction how general mashups and Popfly games can work. A lot of the MSPs had used Popfly before so it wasn’t too long before we dove down a little deeper and looked at code behind and how to create your own block.
Next up was the blogging panel run by Frank Arrigo. Frank pulled together a bunch of great guys to talk to the MSPs about the importance and pitfalls of blogging, including Major Nelson from Xbox, Jeff Sandquist, Lawrence Liu and Warren Sukernek.
Following on from here we heard from the open source team talking about all the things Microsoft does for the open source community. This was pretty cool because Microsoft are actually involved in a heap of open source projects and initiatives, and have a dedicated team to do it.
The highlight for many of the students was the next session – all about Mesh. The Mesh team showed off a few different scenarios including meshing between Windows PC, Mobile device, Mac and the online client. There was plenty of talk about Mesh futures but obviously I can’t talk about that. The real time demo included taking a photo on the mobile and then letting it sync with both Mac and desktop right there in front of everyone. Then we went to the web version and could view the pic there too (interestingly the pic review is done in Silverlight – woo).
The last formal session of the day was all about XNA Game Studio and Creator Community. While the news for Australia wasn’t good – we’re definitely not in the first phase to allow homebrew games to be bought and sold on Xbox Live Arcade – there’s still hope that we’ll be included in one of the next phases. Mostly the session talked about the program itself, including the Dream Build Play competition (which IS open worldwide) and what’s involved in the Creator Club which was pretty cool. Even so, we still had time to preview the new experience for Xbox - it’s gonna rock, can’t wait to get it on my Xbox 360.
Now it was time for some fun stuff. The MSPs all scored temporary access to the Company Store and each received a gift certificate to spend in-store. Many a mouse, game, shirt and souvenir was purchased and lots of smiling faces were seen leaving the store on their way to their next destination.
Which turned out to be a tour of the House of the Future. I can’t talk about this one much – we weren’t allowed to take cameras in – but I’ll say that I’d like to see a number of the technologies sooner rather than later. 🙂
Oh, alright – a couple of highlights. First up is RFID tagging everywhere. You’re in the kitchen and you get the blender out and throw it on the bench, followed by a bag of flower. Seconds later, you see a message broadcast onto the bench suggesting possible recipes based on those two items along with the other ingredients the house knows you’ve got.
Or when you receive a pizza fridge magnet, the message board displays weekly specials alongside the magnet. Or you bring a souvenir home and put it in the display cabinet and the system recognises it and highlights related bits and pieces. This was particularly cool; there was a display cabinet with nine panels – the middle one being a shelf inset. The other eight were digital frames cycling through photo streams. When something RFID enabled is thrown into the shelf, however, it bursts into life, searching through the entire family’s photo history looking for photos of the object or location (for instance, the RFID tag may have identified that the thing was bought in Paris, and so any photos of that city would be included). Just a subtle way of how technology enhances your experience and keeping your environment fresh.
The second thing that I liked was also connected to this display cabinet, that they refer to as a sharing box. It is the interconnectedness with close family that it brings. In the future, they envisage connecting each panel of the cabinet up to a different family or family member. For example, the top left corner in the demo house was connected to their grandmother’s house. Any photos they upload to that particular box’s stream are automatically shared with grandmother, and vice versa. It also has indicators telling them when she’s around, etc…
(Thinking about it – this would be quite easy to realise – have a Mesh folder of photos you share with your extended family, and have wireless digital photo frames pointing to the Mesh folder, and voila, everyone gets a copy of any photo added to the folder… I think I’m going to implement this when I get home!)
Finally, time for a major relaxation effort with a pizza and Xbox night. This was hosted on the top floor of Lincoln Square with 270 degree views of the city, loads of pizza, beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages for the underage MSPs (remember, drinking age here is 21). There was a lot of good conversation, lots of Halo, Soul Calibur and Burnout Paradise, and the highlight for me – Rock Band 2… w00t… can’t wait for this to hit Oz.
And that was it – but it was a very long day. Day two is just as full on in terms of schedule, but so far seems to be more manageable. More later.