Microsoft’s Team of Mad Scientists

Microsoft’s Team of Mad Scientists

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Our very own Stevie Bathiche was recently featured in an article with Fast Companythis week. The article served as inspiration for us to share a little bit more about Stevie’s team here at Microsoft, the Applied Sciences group, and the role they played in helping create Surface.

Stevie Bathiche, who is a distinguished scientist, leads the Applied Sciences group. The Applied Sciences group, or “technology asylum”, is made up of about 20 scientists who together form a research team built up with several broad disciplines. Within this group of “mad scientists”, there are physicists, optical, software, computer vision, and electrical engineering researchers who all work together to develop and implement new ideas that truly break new ground in product design.

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These are custom displays that the Applied Sciences built that are able to see you and your hands for gestures and more realistic video conferencing.

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The same video conferencing display from the back.

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This is SpaceTop, an augmented reality desktop that uses a transparent display to create a virtual 3D environment behind the display where you can interact with digital objects as if they were in your hands.

The Applied Sciences group played a significant role in making Surface what it is today.

One problem Stevie, in partnership with the Surface Engineering Team, was asked to solve was the distracting reflection a user sees when interacting with their screen. When you hold up a piece of glass you can see your reflection because the glass is denser than air. Solving this issue meant having the fewest layers of glass possible (the team knew that more layers meant more reflections). The solution they developed to eliminate these reflections was ultimately to fuse all the optical layers together (touch sensor, protective glass, and other layers) so that the layers became the same density and matched each other’s index of refraction as close as possible. The end result was reduced glare, reflections, and even making the display stronger and more resilient.

Stevie and his team also helped build one of the thinnest keyboards in the world, our Touch Covers. Teaming up with the Touch Cover development engineers, they began with a goal of building a keyboard that was just 4.5mm thick. When the team was through, 4.5mm was just a memory and the 7 layers that make up Touch Cover today have a combined thickness of only 3mm. But there’s more to the Touch Cover.

The keyboard senses a number of unique signals and gestures from the user. Using those signals, the Touch Cover is capable of telling the difference between when the user is trying to rest their hands or finding the home position vs. the gesture of typing. Touch Cover is a smart keyboard. With all its pressure sensitive electronics wrapped in fabric, the Touch Cover is the thinnest keyboard on the market and a fantastic accessory for Surface.

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Their work is hard…so they like to drink a lot of coffee.

The Applied Sciences group comes to work to give serendipity its best chance and to create novel ways for people to interact with their devices. We’re proud of the work they’ve done to date and can’t wait to see what the future brings.

18 Comments
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  • Alberto
    1 Posts

    I love surface , I had and Surface RT and sold it to another lucky person to save the Money for the surface pro, as I am a IT professional , this will be my BYOD! Cheers from Portugal.

  • We have published an update on expanding Surface Pro and Surface RT availability here: blog.surface.com/.../expanding-surface-pro-and-surface-rt-availability.aspx

  • Gavin
    3 Posts

    A word of advice.   Putting on any more comments about skateboarders or scientists is just extremely annoying the huge silent majority of the rest of the world while you remain closemouthed about availability and blind to feedback, (myself included).   This is the first time in a long time that MS has come out with something "cool", and risks completely losing this to lack of follow through. (Cairo?  WinFS anyone?) For a company that prides itself on the We-Ship mentality, that ship has sailed and gone.  

    I strongly suggest that you put up a post at least discussing the availability and acknowledging the problem, and perhaps sharing some update.  e.g. "we hear the frustration from all of you, so a few words to update.  Surface supply chain has had some problems but we expect them to be resolved by date xx/yy/zzz, at which stage, our plan is to have surface pro available in the following countries 4-6 weeks after.  Please note:  these are draft dates and subject to change but having listened to you, we're being more open and transparent and will commit to giving further updates once a week"

    Murrington
    3 Posts

    Dear Microsoft

    Listen to this chap, he speaks the truth. Also if their any execs viewing this joke of a blog, I would strongly recommend firing whoever is running it and hiring Gavin.

    Regards,

    Increasingly annoyed customer

    It is true. It is not fair the UK does not get to experience these awesome devices. They need to stop posting nonsense and announce a release date.

    Same here from down in Australia. starting to get pissed off from lack of information. MS hire this gavin to do your blog, he might be a little bit more helpful.

  • The Surface RT is simply the best device, by far, I have EVER used. The performance is extremely fast and great, but there are a few requests:

    1. A Modern UI version of Office.

    2. Control Panel in Modern UI

    3. A more touch friendly Desktop, if the Desktop is needed

    4. LOUDER speakers

    5. Modern UI file explorer

    6. VIDEO APP: All video files types, specifically ones from iTunes

    7. GENERAL: Ability to change tile color, and/or to rename the tiles

    8. WISHLIST: a Surface with an Intel Atom, and/or a 7 or 8 inch Surface.

    9. MOBILE BROADBAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    With the suggestions taken and applied, this family would be the GREATEST family of tablets ever built t date, and in the for seeable future.

  • Time-lapse video Retouching with the Surface Pro

    I used an external bluetooth keyboard and Adobe Photoshop CS6

    www.youtube.com/watch

    Retouching and Photography done by http://www.exactdigital.com

  • djrankin
    6 Posts

    Surface Team:

    Can I suggest this blog only be blocked from people outside the US, Canada and China. You need to create an international blog site that relates to international availability, your current post really do rub salt into the wounds of international customers who have waited for months to have the opportunity to give you cash and access your products, stories of how good the Pro is are like a red flag to bull at this stage. The internet is an international forum an you have 2 different customer types here, those who can access your products easily and want to share on the subject, an those who just want access (the have's and have not's), it is a big mistake letting the 2 groups socialise in the same room, you can expect sparks as long as you withhold product release information from half the posters and cheer on the other half that had access to your products months ago.

    o0MattE0o
    6 Posts

    The problem is I can not see what is holding them back in releasing the product to EU (countries already have RT) we already have country keyboards for surface thanks to RT and Windows 8 Pro OS is Multilanguage so I can only put it down to Warranty...

    EU requires 2 years warranty (my Nikon SLR has 2 years, USA and China get 1 year) so is it just down to the fact the Surface Pro can not last the 2 years required by EU LAW?

    And the thing that is holding Microsoft up is they are fixing the parts to make it last that long or trying to find a loop hole to get past the 2 year warranty?

    o0MattE0o
    6 Posts

    If I'm Wrong?

    Prove to me that I am wrong :D and let us know what is holding the Surface Pro from being released in EU (countries already have RT)

  • Surface Team:

    I just wanted to take a moment to comment on a few things, and we never have enough time it seems to do so, but as a great line in the Matrix illustrated "how can we have time, if we do not take time?"

    - The blog posts you guys put up are actually pretty interesting and I enjoy reading them.  I know it takes a good deal of time to figure out what to write, get the info, etc; the work is certainly appreciated and the behind the scenes glimpse into the creation of the touch keyboard, and the Applied Sciences group here for example are really cool.

    - The Surface itself, and in particular the RT64 that I have is honestly and quite simply an astounding feat of engineering.  I didn't/don't know where else to say so and to thank you guys for what really equates to an evolutionary leap in computing that is unfortunately a concept not being fully grasped by many just yet, though they will get it in time.  I don't want to go on about the hardware and the transition from device to device, but man, awesome stuff, so thank you.

    The rest of you:

    Take a step back from the keyboard and relax, it is a product launch, products can have delays... get over it.  It will come out when it comes out, get one when it does, don't bash on the creator right up until then.  Honestly there would probably be more commentary and readership if the argumentative "are we there yet" posts toned down a bit.

    That said, I'm not a religious guy, but I do recall someone was quoted once for saying "be ye hot or be ye cold", one of those love me or hate me kinda deals, so one way or another- MS you guys have a pretty strong following. :)

    PS: Side note for MS, and maybe this is a better offline discussion, but what is your take on the the black and white difference between "professional" technical writer's opinions on the Surface RT and the actual user community's real user experience?  For ex: It has gotten a lot of flack in tech reviews, yet nearly perfect scores across the board from those who actually own and use them, even as we work through trivial growing pains.  Which by the way one more thank you, the regular patches and attentiveness to the product is really appreciated as well.

    -Tony :)

    gaburko
    2 Posts

    Dear Tony, you say, and i quote "Take a step back from the keyboard and relax, it is a product launch, products can have delays... get over it." The fuss is not about having/not having a delay, but about the arrogance of MSFT of NOT COMMUNICATING. If there is a delay, fine. Share openly this, but more importantly, share what is the plan to address the delay. Posting a fairly useless snippet about "mad scientists" when the much more relevant question remains hidden under the carpet will generate offtopic flame until someone at MSFT wakes up and realizes that treating customers the way they are used to from the 90s doesnt cut it anymore.

    badmouse
    2 Posts

    Hi Tony,

    You have to understand that most of us here are not complaining on the delay rather, the lack of communication.  We do not care if they launch the surface pro will be 2 weeks, 2 months or even 2 years from now but the inability to provide any information on a very simple question on when this product will be available is very disrespectful to customers.  

    Imagine going to a shop and asking the vendor how much or when a product would be available.  You're waiting for an answer but the vendor ignores you or tells you how good the product is and how clever they are for making it. So you ask the vendor again because your thinking he/she does not understand your question. And again, you get the same response on how they made the product and on how many people from different walks of life uses this product.  You try to explain to the vendor that you already know a great deal about the product and that you only want to know when you can buy it but again, he explains about the complexity and the materials used and the different feature.  Now Tony, how would you feel if you were the customer and you've been doing this for a whole month?

    It is in the simple things that defines how you handle the big things.  It makes us wonder how else MS can screw us over if they can not even provide an answer to a very simple question...  "When will the Surface Pro be availble?"

    Belaboy
    2 Posts

    ^this

    In regards to the pen driver, i want to know what exactly it is they are doing. At this point I could care less about the release date, but I just want to know if they're putting in wintab drivers (like they promised 9 weeks ago) or if they're making a workaround for select programs (suspicions rose 2 blog posts ago when they stated it was a driver update to enable the function in Photoshop). Forget the release date, just clarify that bit of information, i don't see how it compromises anything. Terrible communication from Microsoft.

    o0MattE0o
    2 Posts

    +1 to badmouse

    And to Belaboy this should not be the same department as marketing or sales, but they are working with Adobe so it could take time...

    djrankin
    2 Posts

    +1 to badmouse

    imagine standing in front of that vendor trying to push $1200 into there hand to pre-order that product only to be told its a really great product by people who already own one, and imagine spending months campaigning to your employer to upgrade workplace laptops to surface pro, they agree, give you a blank cheaque to buy 48 plus accessories an then they ask you everyday where are the new tablets? Business customers don't want firm dates we need them for budgets. I don't care when just give me any date for release to put in project planning paperwork please.

  • Belaboy
    2 Posts

    So yeah how about that wintab pen driver artists have been waiting for like 2 months now

    o0MattE0o
    2 Posts

    I'm still waiting for my surface pro :D

    Done painfully with a mouse :D

    o0matte0o.deviantart.com/.../TombRaider-360964427

  • Dazza666
    3 Posts

    Sorry MS but wtf? There's people willing to invest good money in your products and you can't even take them seriously? You throw up these smoke and mirror facades to divert peoples attention, like waving a bone at a dog? Read through the comments on your blog every now and again and you'll see the rest of the world is frustrated and glaring straight at you in disgust! it's been months.....

  • o0MattE0o
    34 Posts

    Could this be why its not on sale in the UK/EU as the EU has a Two year warranty also...

    www.neowin.net/.../chinese-state-run-media-criticizing-surface-pro-warranty

    So these high quality Surface Pro's will not last longer than 1 year?

    Well Australia only requires one year for warranty, and we still do not have it. so maybe it might not be the only reason it is delayed.

  • o0MattE0o
    34 Posts

    Some one let me know if a shop can ship a Surface Pro to the UK?

    I can get the device insured under my Camera Equipment so if it fails, I just get a new one...

  • la2012
    1 Posts

    This is a complete joke, how can you clowns actively avoid the issue of your appalling customer service and not provide a morsel of information on when this supposedly great product will be available outside China and the US, specifically Australia.

  • This is really sad. Are you consciously trying to divert attention away from your marketing disaster of the Surface Pro? I am watching people in Australia daily (including me) ordering a Pro from the US without any Australian warranty just to get their hands on something that they want and you guys don't seem to understand that. Why??

  • I'm seriously obsessed with this product. I think it reminds me exactly why I love technology. I still don't have one, I'm kind of seeing if I can get together money for a Pro, but also, they're not available in my country so I would have to ship one in and may run into support issues. I guess you see how much I care based on that incredibly long explanation.

    Bottom line, I love this thing. I have seen videos from the team and all of the work that went into it and I want you to know is worth it.

    Much Love!

  • Magikarpet
    1 Posts

    Well here in 'murka, the Pros are available and I want one!

    ...but I have no money. So you suck Microsoft, for advertising your product even though I can't get one!

    JKLOL! But seriously, if you guys need an intern in your tech asylum...

    _>

    I happen to be an aspiring man scientist.