"It’s fair time at Microsoft – Tech Fest is on the horizon and our Product Fair follows a little later in the year. I’ll be following (and blogging) about each of them and giving you some insight in to what goes down at these events.
"Today was Science Fair at The Commons and I was one of the judges so I got an extensive tour of what’s on offer (and a white lab coat) and then toured again with Josh Lowensohn of CNET who has just posted his views on the event. Science Fair is run by the folks behind The Garage at Microsoft which I covered in a recent post. In a nutshell, it’s hobbyist development inside Microsoft.
"So what did we see at Science Fair today that I can tell you about?"
Well, there was lot's that I can't comment on from the Fair, but I was happy to see Steve's coverage, specifically with references to the .NET Gadgeteer from the folks over in MSR. Essentially it's what I envision to be the next iteration of the popular Lego Mindstorms that my kids use today, only enabled with .NET Micro Framework, allowing you to program in C# and use the tools in Visual Studio. I agree with Steve in that one of the most interesting things was how the team had integrated one of their devices with the cloud services in Azure.
I enjoyed getting to see the details on The Microsoft Biology Initiative (MBI), an effort in MSR to bring new technology and tools to the area of bioinformatics and biology. MBF provides an extension to the .NET Framework to Genomics research, with connections to web services such as NCBI BLAST.
A few other projects of interest:
"IM-an-Expert", as noted in Ryen's papers, a system that takes in questions via IM and routes them automatically to nominated "experts" for an answer.
The Microsoft All-In-One Code Framework provides sample code in C++, C#, and VB.NET to demonstrate frequently-asked, tested or used coding scenarios based on the feedback we get in the MSDN forums. Follow the All-in-One Code blog posts here from Jialiang Ge and the team for free code samples form the Microsoft Community team.
Last, I'm a fan of Microsoft Office Labs' Ribbon Hero, the game for Office 2007 and Office 2010 suite to help you learn how to use all of the features and functionality that you might not know exists in the applications in the suite. My favourite this time around was learning how to do a dop cap at the beginning of a paragraph without invoking the "font" menu command. You can read more about Ribbon Hero in this post on ZDNet by Christopher Dawson, noting it as a "brilliant training tool from Office Labs." I couldn't agree more…
"If all this sounds a bit dorky, it is. But the countless people who wile away the hours on WOW, Dungeons and Dragons, and Farmville (all arguably dorky in their own way) will buy into this in a heartbeat. Better yet, Microsoft has actually done their research on the way people learn in the context of gaming and included real thought to the pedagogy of applications training: short, relevant tasks, immediate feedback and reinforcement, and enough difficulty to be challenging with enough supports to be successful. It even adapts the difficulty of the challenges to the speed with which a user completes them.
"And to answer my question about the value proposition of Office 2010 versus Office 2007, the truly diabolical folks at Microsoft have included several challenges highlighting the new features in 2010. Users of 2007 can see these challenges and a brief description of the new feature, but can’t complete the challenge until they download the 2010 beta (and later, pay for a downloaded upgrade). Office Labs is, of course, tracking these downloads to determine both the effectiveness of the teaser challenges and how compelling the new features are for end users."
Additional links of interest:
- You can watch a very interesting clip on.NET Gadgeteer here on channel9, from the Maker faire last year.
- I also liked the coverage Steve and @josh from CNET gave in the article over at CNET, "Inside Microsoft's science fair".
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