EmTech 08: Mundie's bets are on 'first life'

Microsoft's Mundies: Multicore processors will spark new, dynamic applications for virtual representations of the real world.

The dramatic increase in compute power unleashed by multicore processors will enable applications that blend virtual representations of the real world with information that meets users' contextual needs, Microsoft's top researcher said at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Thursday.

But to realize this vision, the computer science community must master the transition to parallel programming environments, Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie told attendees at the Technology Review EmTech conference. This will also require modeling technology that masks complexity for programming tools, and work on sensing technologies, such as machine vision, which serve as the computer equivalent of human senses.

Mundie did not offer any new peeks behind the curtain of Microsoft's research operation, instead mostly presenting ideas and demos that he has previously shared. Most compelling were applications that build on a concept he has referred to as "first life" (as opposed to the virtual online playground Second Life).

It's not difficult to be engaged by a virtual representation of downtown Seattle compiled with Microsoft's Photosynth tool that might stop at a storefront, but could extend into a "walk-through" of a physical shop should the merchant wish to present that -- the online store coming full circle and meeting bricks-and-mortar again.

Mundie also played a video demo of a "robot receptionist," presumably an example of what Mundie said were more personalized, humanistic applications enabled by developments in computing architectures. Whether this will be the "killer app" that Mundie said each new era in computing needs to succeed in the marketplace may be debated by those whose idea of humanism is a moment of personal contact with a friendly person at the front desk.

Mundie was briefly joined on stage by Yujin's iRobi robot for one demo, and one of his first questions from the audience was an inquiry as to whether Microsoft would work with standards organizations that seek to promote interoperability in robotics. He responded that it's "way too early to standardize on interfaces" and noted that most standards in the computer industry have evolved from de facto standards.

Another audience member brought up comments from an earlier conference session on cloud computing and asked what Mundie thought of the contention that "the operating system will become irrelevant."

"Whether it's Windows or something else, something has to make all this iron work," Mundie responded, adding that today's computing environment demands a higher level of abstraction from the services offered by the OS, from a programming point of view.

However, from the user point of view, he said "most people don't choose Windows, they choose Office." The platform is important to users because it determines what applications are available, he added.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags parallel computing

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Elizabeth Heichler

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?