The biggest tech companies hold annual developer conferences, and Microsoft's is now underway.
Every year Microsoft spends a couple days trying to bring developers and software engineers into its fold with a developer conference called Build. While at the conference, the company typically also announces updates for its services and platforms - whether that be Windows 10, Office 365, or the Azure cloud computing platform. Here all the major updates Microsoft announced at Build 2018.
Can you watch Build 2018 online?
You can watch the entire Day One keynote from here:
To stream videos from the entire conference, go to this Microsoft site.
What happened at Build 2018?
Here's what Microsoft announced during Day One at Build 2018:
Windows 10: Your Phone app
Microsoft unveiled a new “Your Phone” app for Windows 10.
It provides a mirror of a phone straight to a desktop PC, so that you can access texts, photos, and notifications from your workstation. Features differ depending on whether you're using an iOS or Android device, with Microsoft suggesting you can mirror more Android phone features to a Windows 10 PC. Microsoft will start testing its Your Phone app with Windows Insiders in May 2018.
Windows Mixed Reality: Microsoft Layout
Microsoft announced a new “mixed reality” tool called Microsoft Layout. It lets you design and visualise real spaces in either Microsoft HoloLens or a virtual reality headset. Layout allows Windows Mixed Reality you to construct a virtual floor plan and move 3D models on it using a VR headset, so you can preview how a room would look. Then, you can go to the physical location and view that layout using HoloLens.
DJI partnered with Microsoft to create a new drone SDK for Windows 10. This will enable full flight control and data transfer to Windows 10 PCs. So, with apps written for Windows 10 PCs, DJI drones will be able to be customised and controlled for a wide variety of industrial uses. This will also make it easy to integrate third-party hardware, such as multispectral sensors or custom actuators, with DJI’s drones.
Alexa and Cortana
Microsoft first announced its Alexa and Cortana integration last year.
Now, a year later, we've been given a demo of Cortana running on Alexa and vice versa. It works by simply summoning Cortana with the command “Alexa, open Cortana.” You can then ask questions or commands (like “send an email”) to a specific person - something you can't do with just Alexa alone. Similarly, you can cue up Alexa within the Cortana interface on Windows 10 in order to access Alexa skills.
Kinect in the cloud
Microsoft is moving Kinect to the cloud, according to CEO Satya Nadella:
“Kinect, when we first launched it in 2010, was a speech-first, gaze-first, vision-first device. It was used in gaming, and then, later on, it came to the PC, and it was used in many applications: medical, industrial, robotics, education... We’ve been inspired by what developers have done, and since Kinect, we’ve made a tremendous amount of progress when it comes to some of the foundational technologies in HoloLens. So we’re taking those advances and packaging them up as Project Kinect for Azure.”
Microsoft's Alex Kipman explained in a LinkedIn blog post that Project Kinect for Azure will combine the depth sensor with Azure AI services. Kipman also that AI deep learning on depth images could lead to “cheaper-to-deploy AI algorithms”.
Microsoft demoed "meeting room" - prototype hardware that should make meetings and conferences more manageable. Microsoft’s meeting room features a 360-degree camera and microphone array that can detect anyone in a meeting room, greet them, and transcribe what they say in any language. It also uses artificial intelligence to follow up on what meeting participants say in a meeting.
So, if someone says “I’ll call you tomorrow,” then they’ll get a notification in Microsoft Teams. It’s not clear when meeting room will be available. But Microsoft has promised new Surface Hub displays in the first half of 2018, so we could see this technology rolled out that way.
Is that it?
Microsoft might also briefly discuss the following during Day Two of Build:
Windows 10 April 2018 Update
Microsoft already revealed it will update Windows 10 twice a year - in the spring and in the autumn - with new features and noteworthy upgrades. The last major update, which arrived in April, is called the April 2018 Update. You can read all about the update from here. Since it just rolled out, we expect to hear more about it, and maybe even the next update due in autumn, at Build 2018.
Microsoft has already announced the next release of its Office productivity suite. Called Office 2019, it'll consist of all the usual apps, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. Microsoft is planning to release Office 2019 this year (businesses can sign up to try it here), and it's begun to preview the new features. So, Microsoft will likely update us on the Office 2019 preview and its rollout plans while at Build 2018.
Last year, Microsoft launched its Visual Studio coding platform for the Mac. It allows developers to code apps using Microsoft's development environment on Apple's MacOS platform. They can sync across both Windows and Mac devices and build native mobile apps for iOS, macOS, Android, and the web. We may learn more about Visual Studio at Build 2018, but you never know.
Last year, Microsoft made a watch that helps people with Parkinson’s disease write more legibly. Called the Emma Watch, it sends vibrations to the brain and and can control hand tremors. Symptom of Parkinson's are shaking and loss of motor control. The disease is incurable and affects more than 10 million people. The watch prototype, but it demonstrates how wearables could aid people with conditions.
We haven't heard much about this watch since, so maybe Build 2018 will resurface the project.