Microsoft’s Mundie talks future technology

Craig Mundie, a senior adviser to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, showed off the company’s upcoming products in a talk held Wednesday afternoon.

Mundie, who addressed a full audience in Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona 114, was named a recipient of Yale’s 2012 Gordon Grand Fellowship, which aims to promote dialogue between business leaders and Yale students. In his lecture, titled “How Tomorrow’s Technologies Will Shape Your World,” Mundie discussed Microsoft’s efforts to make human-technology interaction more natural and productive, and gave examples of how the company is bringing such products to businesses and consumers. His speech was originally scheduled for November 2012 but was canceled due to Hurricane Sandy.

Over the next few years, he said his company anticipates a shift from the current graphical user interface of “pointing and clicking and typing” to a “natural user interface” of “touch and other forms of human sense-like capabilities.

“We’d really like a computer to be more like us, and through that, we want many more people to get computing capability. … There’s no reason to believe that in the future that any person who’s buying a television or a cellphone won’t inherently be buying a computer,” he said.

Throughout his lecture, Mundie offered demonstrations of products Microsoft expects to offer in the “relatively near future.” He used a 55-inch touch-screen computer to show Microsoft’s upcoming apps, which have new capacities for analyzing and visually representing large sets of data. Mundie also emphasized the future potential of machine learning and showed a video of a Microsoft computer that can perform real-time language translation from voice recognition. In the video, a Microsoft executive was speaking in English to a crowd in China as the computer repeated his words in Chinese using an imitation of his voice.

Mundie said the new capability will enhance user productivity by making human interactions with computers via touch screens more intuitive — computers should be able to assist people’s work rather than inhibit it.

“I ask myself, ‘How should a farmer in rural India be able to use these machine capabilities?’ He should be able to pick up his phone and ask, ‘When should I fertilize?’ and it would say, ‘Thursday,’” he added.

Mundie talked about uniting hand-held devices with larger tablets via cloud computing. Xbox users, he said, can already control their consoles using their smartphones.

Toward the end of his presentation, he and a colleague demonstrated the cloud computing abilities of a pair of desk lamps, each with a built-in camera and projector. The two users wrote on physical sheets of paper and the lamps projected the other’s writing onto both papers, effectively allowing the two users to collaborate on a single physical project in real time.

Audience members interviewed said they were impressed by Mundie’s demonstrations.

Kevin Abbott ’16 said he attended the talk because he has been a longtime Windows user.

“I’ve always been interested in the technology they’re coming up with,” he added.

Rafael Fernandez ’13 said he could envision how the technologies Mundie demonstrated “would save [him] great time and effort” in his biology research.

After the presentation, Mundie raffled off two Windows Phones, three Microsoft Xboxes and three Microsoft Surface tablets to audience members, who had been handed free tickets upon entrance.

Mundie was Microsoft’s chief research and strategy officer until December, and he will continue in his role as senior adviser until he retires in 2014.

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