Meet Microsoft, the world's best kept R&D secret

Robots, holodecks and augmented reality are some of the projects being worked on

By Matt Smith, PC World |  IT Management, augmented reality, Microsoft

Microsoft calls this technique Foveated Rendering and has already conducted successful trials. Users couldn't tell the difference between the normal image and the one with reduced detail. Yet the less detailed image required up to six times less power to render! "The result looks like a full-resolution image but reduces the number of pixels shaded by a factor of 10-15," the research team notes.

This technology, if it came to consumers, would have broad implications. Game consoles would appear more realistic without quicker hardware. High-resolution displays would become more practical. And virtual reality would be much, much easier for a PC to handle.

Kinect Glasses and augmented reality

All of this technology may sound fantastical, but Microsoft-driven augmented reality may pop up sooner than you think. Earlier this year, a document containing information about the next Xbox leaked to the press. It was quickly mopped up by Redmond's legal teams, but the document was available long enough to leak numerous details. Most of it was expected: The next Xbox will be more powerful, will offer a better version of Kinect, and will have even greater focus on digital distribution.

On tidbit came out of nowhere, however--Fortaleza, also referred to as Kinect Glasses. The leak showed artist renderings of people using augmented reality glasses in conjunction with the next Xbox to play games and navigate its operating system. The glasses would even be Wi-Fi and 4G capable, which suggests they might be usable without the game console.

Fortaleza is not Microsoft's only experimentation with augmented reality and wearable peripherals. The company has demonstrated a wrist-mounted gadget, called Digits, which can translate a user's hand movements directly into a virtual space. This concept lets users control a PC without direct interaction or a Kinect-like system--which would be useful if you're on the go. Researchers are also looking at small-scale augmented reality with Kinect-derived technology that lets users manipulate projected objects.

Holodeck and its related virtual research projects are awesome, but augmented reality is a more likely near-term goal. Wearable computing will be hitting store shelves in the next few years--if not from Microsoft, then from Google--so there's a real need for the company to invest in this future.

Cloud computing's continued evolution

Originally published on PC World |  Click here to read the original story.
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