Microsoft Monday: Mixed Reality Headsets, Face Swap App, Update For Minecraft: Pocket Edition – Forbes

Microsoft Monday is a weekly column that focuses on updates in regards to the Redmond giant. This week, Microsoft Monday includes details about new mixed reality headsets, new Skype features, a partnership with Purdue University, an interview with former CEO Steve Ballmer at the Code conference, the new Face Swap app, Planner app for iOS, upcoming PCs with mobile chips and LTE modems and co-founder Paul Allen’s aircraft.

Microsoft Reveals Several Mixed Reality Headsets

Acer's Windows Mixed Reality headset

Microsoft

Acer’s Windows Mixed Reality headset

At the Computex technology trade show in Taipei last week, Microsoft revealed several new mixed reality (MR) headsets. The mixed reality headsets are being built by Dell, Lenovo and Asus with Microsoft’s mixed reality platform. “These headsets, coming to market this holiday, use Microsoft’s platform to enable a single and consistent user interface, standardized inputs and a universal app platform for developers,” said Microsoft in a blog post.

What makes mixed reality different from virtual reality is that the former layers digital images on top of the environment of the user whereas the latter is a completely virtual environment. You may also remember that HP and Acer launched pre-orders for the new Windows Mixed Reality dev kits at the Build 2017 developers conference. And Microsoft announced new motion controllers for Windows Mixed Reality back then as well.

Microsoft Overhauls Skype

Microsoft is preparing to introduce the next generation of Skype. Group chats in Skype are now more “lively.” And now you can customize Skype with your favorite colors. 

And one of the new Skype features is called Highlights. Highlights allows you to create a highlight reel of your day from your photo and video collection. And you can post a Highlight by swiping to access your camera and taking a photo or video followed by posting it to your Highlights. Or you can send it directly to your contacts or groups.

After you post a Highlight, your friends and family can react to it with emoticons. You can also draw on the photos and apply stickers to them.

Plus Skype has a new “Find” panel that makes Skype searchable. The new Find feature is a univeral search that allows you to find conversations, images, and add-ins.

There is also third party app integration that will be built into Skype. For example, a StubHub bot in the app can find ticket pricing and seating options. And the BigOven add-in pulls in recipes and helps you plan grocery lists. Plus the Expedia bot on Skype helps you check flight times and prices.

The new version of Skype will be coming to mobile first and then to the desktop. Specifically, it will be released on Android first followed by the iPhone. And then it will arrive for Windows and Mac over the next few months.

Microsoft Partners With Purdue University To Build A Topological Quantum Computer

Purdue University has signed a five-year deal with Microsoft on a topological quantum computing project called Station Q. The consortium now includes Purdue University, TU Delft in the Netherlands, the Niels Bohr Institute in Denmark, the University of Sydney in Australia, ETH Zurich in Switzerland and the University of Maryland. Microsoft and Purdue have been working together on quantum computing for over a year.

“What’s exciting is that we’re doing the science and engineering hand-in-hand, at the same time,” said Station Q Purdue director and Purdue University Professor Michael Manfra in a news release. “We are lucky to be part of this truly amazing global team.”

The advantage of quantum computing over classical computation is that quantum computers would be better used for handling cryptographic systems and modeling molecular interactions. “Topological quantum computing utilizes qubits that store information ‘non-locally,’ and the outside noise sources have less effect on the qubit, so we expect it to be more robust,” added Manfra.

How will Purdue University be involved? Purdue will be focused primarily on studying ultra-pure semiconductors and hybrid systems of semiconductors that could power the Station Q quantum computer.

Microsoft Says A Fix For The OfficeBackgroundTaskHandlerRegistration Bug Is Coming

There is a Microsoft Office bug — which is known as the OfficeBackgroundTaskHandlerRegistration bug — that is causing a pop-up to appear every hour. “There’s a fix making it’s way through the #OfficeInsiders Slow ring,” said Microsoft’s Jen Gentleman in a tweet. This can be rather annoying while you are using full screen applications. The file that launches every hour is called officebackgroundtaskhandler.exe and it is located under C:/Program Files (x86)/Microsoft Office/root/Office16/officebackgroundtaskhandler.exe.

Microsoft And Cisco Partner On Internet Of Things Solutions

Microsoft and Cisco Systems have announced an Internet of Things partnership. As part of the partnership, the Microsoft Azure IoT Suite will be able to connect to Cisco’s Fog deployments. The partnership will also bring “intelligence and processing capabilities closer to where the data is originated.” And the partnership will help Cisco optimize their Internet of Things deployment costs by sending just the necessary information to the cloud.

“We believe IoT, Cloud and IoT Edge will continue to play a critical role in digital transformation. We’re excited to extend our work with Cisco and bring the Value of Microsoft’s IoT technologies and solutions to even more customers,” said Microsoft’s Partner Director of Azure Internet of Things Sam George in a blog post.

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer At The Code Conference

Ballmer Discusses Twitter

Last week at the Code Conference, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer discussed why he invested a substantial amount in Twitter. “There’s a real opportunity to make that a valuable economic asset,” said Ballmer via TechCrunchBallmer added he believes in Twitter because it “gives people a chance to communicate directly with the people they want to talk to in the world.” And Ballmer said that Twitter will get “sorted through” or “it will be an appropriately valuable asset for somebody to buy.”

In October 2015, Ballmer said he owned 4% of Twitter. It is unknown how much he still owns. Ballmer also revealed that Microsoft did not attempt to buy Twitter when he was the head of the company. 

Ballmer Acknowledges Microsoft Was Slow To Develop Hardware

During the interview at the Code Conference, Ballmer acknowledged that Microsoft was slow to develop hardware. “I think I was too slow in cases to recognize the need for new capability, particularly in hardware,” said Ballmer. “I wish we’d built the capability to be a world-class hardware company, because one of the new expressions of software is essentially the hardware.”

Why Ballmer Will Not Get Into Politics

In the interview, Ballmer took a few moments to discuss politics as well. Specifically Ballmer said he does not have any interest in politics: “zero, nada, none.” “This rich guy likes to think about his basketball team a whole lot more,” quipped Ballmer during the interview.

Ballmer also gave his opinion about a couple of political issues. He said, “budgets should be balanced.” And he also believes children should have easier access to education.

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