Microsoft might not have so many profitable products on the hardware market, but they are always struggling o bring something new, that’s for sure. Their first tablet, the Surface RT and the upcoming Surface Pro, didn’t manage to impress too many people, just as the reviews suggest. Correct me if I’m wrong, but besides the Xbox, there isn’t really another product from Microsoft that you could call a hit (and I’m not talking about mice or keyboards).
So, it would seem that Microsoft is making money, still, mainly from their software products. But the Redmond company is one that loves to invest a lot of money in Research and Development, just like some recent number suggest: Microsoft spent almost $10 billion (!) in the fiscal year of 2012. This means that Microsoft spent $6.4 billion more than Apple did! Therefore, let’s have a look at just what could the R&D teams be working on.
Possible secret projects at Microsoft
We must understand that, good or bad, the Surface tablet, also needed a lot of research and development before the launch, but we can clearly see it’s not making big sales. Some could also say that Windows 8 ate up a lot of these funds, but once more, I don’t really see the results… Thus, I want to believe that Microsoft might be working on some secret or, at least, discrete projects. Here are some guesses, most of them extracted straight from the Microsoft Research website.
Augmented reality gadgets
Probably Google took everybody by surprise when they released their Augmented Reality game Ingress (which is still in beta). We’ve previously showcased some Android and iPhone augmented reality applications, so you might already be very well acquainted with the idea. And if Google’s Glasses become reality, who knows, this could be closer than we could possibly imagine. Getting back to Microsoft, it appears that the Redmond guys are quite aware of what the future has in store for us.
After all, isn’t the Kinect device a little bit of AR action? And it’s a pretty spread out device. Thus, to further enhance the gaming experience, Microsoft could be working on some Kinect glasses and recent speculations point towards that. These special glasses could even have 4G, besides the Wi-Fi. Certainly, this would give Microsoft the reign in gaming consoles….
Next up is a wrist-mounted gadget, called Digits. This device copies your hand’s movement and puts them into a virtual world. This would let users control their PC in the future or, better yet, maybe we could control our own characters in games. That would be so cool! We all know wearable gadgets is one of those “next big things” so Microsoft is wasting no time here!
Reinventing the touchscreen
I’ve seen so many research projects from Microsoft that were revolving around touch surfaces that I’ve already forgot their number, to be honest…What most of them try to achieve is this – you waking up in the morning and writing an email by typing on your pillow or on your wall, instead of a physical keyboard. To put it more simple, Microsoft aims to transform usual objects into computing interfaces.
There are already three projects with this mission: LightSpace, OmniTouch and SkinPut. The latter one, as you’ve probably guessed, allows your skin to be used as an input surface. For some it might seem a little over the top, but it seems that there’s no stopping for these ingenious engineers!
The holodeck, if you’ve been watching Star Trek, is a simulated reality facility, something resembling the environment where Neo from Matrix used to train. Microsoft’s brainiacs want to create some sort of a smart wall (as you can see in the video) that could display content and also to respond to motion/gesture movements. And it makes sense if you think of this paired with the Kinect glasses. A huge smart screen with you playing using your hands and glasses…
This is a project that will see the daylight almost for sure. But it remains secret because, obviously, we don’t know exactly what is Microsoft improving in its labs. According to Nukezilla, Xbox 720 will support the aforementioned Kinect glasses, Blu-Ray and its own 3D glasses. It is also expected that Xbox 720 will have a 6x performance increase, but that remains to be seen. However, a simple search on Google for “Xbox 720” will bring you so many results, that it’s pretty hard to say wich path will Microsoft choose with its development.
There are many, many other projects that Microsoft is working on, and here’s a list with some more: