Microsoft Build 2018, the annual developer event, brought together around 6000 developers, customers and partners in Seattle. Microsoft made a broad range of announcements at the Build conference, which were focused on artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), and bringing the algorithmic computing to edge devices.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that computing has reached everywhere, and is embedded in places, things, homes, and cities. The world has become a computer itself. And if the world is a computer, the developers are a new seat of power.
Microsoft shipped around 650 new capabilities to Azure in last one year. At its developer conference, the company introduced 70 more capabilities to Azure.
Before making the major announcements at Microsoft Build 2018, Satya Nadella revealed how Microsoft addresses the three pillars of trust (Privacy, Cybersecurity, and Ethical AI) with its technology solutions.
Top announcements from Microsoft Build 2018:
1. Project Brainwave
Microsoft announced the preview of Project Brainwave, a hardware architecture deployed on Intel FPGAs, which Microsoft said, will make Azure the fastest cloud for AI. It is more than five times faster than TPU per interface.
It is expected to be perfect for the demands of AI computing. The users will be able to remap the hardware design to the FPGA after every improvement. This capability will be helpful for users to keep pace with new discoveries and rapidly changing AI algorithms.
Brainwave works on TensorFlow, the widely used framework for doing AI calculations using neural networks.
Microsoft said that the Project Brainwave is integrated with Azure Machine Learning to make Azure a more efficient cloud platform for AI.
2. AI for Accessibility
The AI for Accessibility is a $25 million program, using which Microsoft wants to harness the power of artificial intelligence to strengthen the capabilities of one billion-plus people with disabilities around the world.
Microsoft will dedicate developers to develop accessible and intelligent AI solutions, like speech-to-text transcription, visual recognition services, and predictive text functionality.
This program will bring the enthusiasm and passion of people with vision, hearing, cognitive, learning, mobility disabilities and mental health conditions.
3. Project Kinect for Azure
The Project Kinect for Azure offers sensor kit for HoloLens developers who build mixed-reality applications. It is the fourth generation of motion-sensing technology from Microsoft, which includes onboard compute capabilities, time-of-flight depth camera, articulated hand tracking and high-fidelity spatial mapping.
It will enable new scenarios across security, health and manufacturing. Microsoft said that Project Kinect will bring together the spatial understanding, object recognition and skeletal tracking, so that new experiences across robotics, automation, and holoportation can be enabled.
4. Azure IoT edge Runtime
Last month, Microsoft had announced to invest $5 billion in internet of things over the next four years to bring the tools, services, security and experiences to connected solutions. At Microsoft Build, the company open sourced Azure IoT Edge Runtime.
The Azure IoT Edge Runtime will provide developers the access to runtime source code, so that they can modify, debug, and get more transparency and control over the edge applications.
The IoT Edge is built on open container technologies to enable seamless integration with other projects in the ecosystem. At the Build conference, Microsoft has added support for Kubernetes management to the Azure IoT Edge using Virtual Kubelet project. It will provide better consistency in cloud and edge configuration.
Furthermore, Microsoft collaborated with Qualcomm to create a vision AI developer kit running Azure IoT Edge. The aim of the collaboration is to enable camera-based IoT solutions.
5. Partnership with DJI
Microsoft announced its partnership with DJI (Da-Jiang Innovations), the leading drone company, to bring machine learning and AI capabilities to drones. It will help enterprises to harness commercial drone technology and edge cloud computing.
Through the partnership, a new software development kit (SDK) for Windows 10 PCs will be created, to bring real-time data transfer capabilities and fill flight control to Windows 10 users.
The new SDK will help developers in building the native Windows apps which can be used to remotely control the DJI drones. The developers will also be able to integrate and control third-party payloads such as robotic components, custom actuators, multispectral sensors and more.
DJI will now use Microsoft Azure as its preferred cloud computing partner, and leverage the AI and machine learning capabilities of Azure.
6. Speech Devices SDK
The speech devices SDK is aimed at providing superior audio processing from multi-channel sources. Developers can use it to custom train the voice-enabled models with more accurate speech recognition even in noisy environments.
The models built using speech devices SDK can be used in smart cars, smart homes, smart speakers, and other digital assistants.
7. Cortana and Alexa integration
Microsoft’s Cortana is getting integration with Amazon’s Alexa. Microsoft and Amazon had announced last year about this integration but no update was further provided. At the Build conference, Microsoft demonstrated Cortana running on Alexa and vice versa.
The integration of Cortana and Alexa will work by the command “Alexa, Open Cortana”. The aim of integration is to allow Alexa customers use Cortana, and vice versa. Hence, the users will be able to leverage the power of both Alexa and Cortana from a single device.
The companies are still working on the integration, and no announcement has been made about its availability. Microsoft has created a new subscription page to allow users to receive further updates about the integration.
8. New Mixed Reality apps
Microsoft said that the new age of technology is also fueled by mixed reality. In that context, the tech giant announced Microsoft Remote Assist and Microsoft Layout.
The Remote Assist will enable remote collaboration between workers through the hands-free video calling. They can share their point-of-view on Microsoft Teams while staying hands on to solve problems and complete their tasks simultaneously.
On the other hand, Microsoft Layout will allow workers to design spaces in context with mixed reality using the three-dimensional models to create room layouts with holograms.
All the announcements at Microsoft Build 2018 were part of Microsoft’s mission to bring AI and IoT to every developer and organization around the world, and help the businesses expand human imagination in unique and differentiated ways.
Images source: Microsoft