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Windows Insider Podcast

English, News, 4 seasons, 51 episodes, 1 day, 15 hours, 53 minutes
The Windows Insider Team is taking the podcast airwaves to share all things future of Windows, Insider community and beyond
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Trailer: Introducing WorkLab, Microsoft’s new podcast

Everything we thought we knew about work—where we do it, when we do it, how we do it—has been turned on its head. Where is it all going, and is there a map to get us there? WorkLab is a new podcast from Microsoft that taps into data and research to guide you on the road ahead. Leaders and scientists share the company’s findings, and we’ll hear stories about how people and organizations are being transformed at this radical moment. Join host Elise Hu as we tap into even more data and research to guide you on the road ahead. The first season we’ll be focusing on hybrid work, and how we can ensure that workplaces aren’t defined by where you gather, but by how you feel included. The show launches on September 8. Follow the show at
9/7/20211 minute, 16 seconds
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Jobs of Tomorrow

Technology and the jobs that go with it are evolving exponentially faster. How can new grads and seasoned pros alike be prepared for the jobs of tomorrow? How does Microsoft hire the brightest minds to work on leading edge tech? We ponder these questions and more with Dave Wecker, Architect at Microsoft’s Quantum Computing team, and Tyler Roush, of Microsoft’s talent sourcing team. Dave gives us a peek into his work on the frontier of quantum computing, and Tyler shares what it’s like to source talent for an international dream team. Then, we sit down with Microsoft engineer Raymond Uchenna Ononiwu to get his tips on landing a Microsoft internship and how to turn that into a full-time job offer.     Episode Transcription   Jason Howard: You’re listening to the Windows Insider Podcast and I’m your host, Jason Howard. This is Episode 17: Jobs of Tomorrow. Technology and the jobs that go with it are evolving exponentially faster. How can new grads and seasoned pros alike be prepared for tomorrow’s jobs in tech? How does Microsoft hire the brightest minds to work on leading edge tech? We ponder these questions and more in this episode.   Before we get to our first segment, we’ve got a great opportunity we want to mention called the Windows Insider Women in Computing Award. If you are majoring in computer science or a related field, you could win a trip to the Grace Hopper Celebration, the world’s largest gathering of women technologists. Winners will also receive mentoring at Microsoft Headquarters. You can get full details by going to   In case you didn’t know, the Windows Insider Program runs quite a few awesome contests and they are only available to Insiders. So that’s my shameless plug – if you aren’t yet a Windows Insider, go to our website and register. It’s free, it’s easy, and you become a part of a global community shaping the future of Windows.   OK, onto the show!   (Music.)   Jason Howard: First up, we have special guests from Microsoft’s Quantum Computing team to talk about life on the cutting edge and what Microsoft looks for in candidates for jobs on the frontiers of innovation. Dave and Tyler, welcome to the show. Would you please introduce yourselves for our audience?   Hi, I'm Dave Wecker. I'm the Quantum Architect and my job is to pull all the pieces together from the very top which is the software, we normally do all the way down to the materials, the fridges, the devices that we put in our labs all over the world. So, I spent a lot of time on an airplane going from lab to lab.   (Laughter.)   Tyler Roush: My name is Tyler Roush. I work with our talent sourcing team and I've been working with Dave for the last two years but most of my job is trying to understand what they do as much as possible and identify some of the skills that we need to come on to Microsoft to help build a quantum computer.   Jason Howard: So he's doing a cool stuff, and you're getting people to come in and do the cool stuff.   Tyler Roush: Exactly.   Jason Howard: Awesome. So Dave, we start with you. Can you help us understand in kind of layman's terms what quantum computing actually is.   Dave Wecker: Yeah it's actually fairly straightforward, if you think of it compared to classical computing. Classical computing we have bits, and a bit is zero or one. The qubit which is the basic unit in quantum computing is also zero and one but it can be zero and one at the same time. It's actually a little more than that because there's more information than just the zero or one in there. So, you can do a lot of computing with a single qubit. If 32-bits holds one number, let's say on your phone, that number can be from zero to four billion, 32 qubits can hold four billion numbers at once. So, all of a sudden, you're doing computation on a massive amount of information at one time, this unlocks a whole bunch of possibilities for what you can do computationally that you can't do with a classical computer.   Jason Howard: So, what are some of the possibilities that kind of like get you going, things that you've found and they have expanded your mindset and way of thinking about it when it comes to what quantum computing will enable us to do?   Dave Wecker: Well there's some poster children we use, things that are good examples of what you can do. A lot of people bring up cryptography, Shor’s algorithm but to be honest that's not our focus, it's not the type of thing that we want to do in terms of solving problems for the world and doing things for Microsoft that we think are worth doing and are important.   So, I'll start with a very mundane one, which is fertilizer. Fertilizer is something that is extremely expensive for most of the world and the reason is it takes a process that uses a lot of energy, a lot of pressure, high temperatures to make and so a lot of the emerging world can't buy fertilizer because it's out of their price range, because of the amount that it takes.   We're talking on the order of five percent of the natural gas on the planet every year is consumed to make fertilizer, three percent of the total energy output of the planet. On the other hand, there's a little, tiny anaerobic bacteria that sits in the root of all plants, that sits there happily at room temperature and room pressure, low energy and it takes air and breaks the nitrogen bond and makes fertilizer, makes ammonia.   We know we can do this, because it can do it, but we can't analyze the actual molecule that's in there, that causes the fertilizer to be made. We can't because it uses quantum effects that can't be analyzed on classical machines but can on quantum computers. So, you could make low-cost, artificial fertilizer if you had a quantum machine to analyze it.   Same problem for global warming. We could build a algorithm that looks at the global warming problem, and we know that you could make a paint that we paint everything in the world and it just sucks the carbon out of the air.   All of these take on the order of 200 logical qubits. So, we're not talking about giant machines, and we'll be able to solve first-world problems that we have no way of approaching today.   I'll give one more, is transmission lines the United State, 15 percent of our energy output is lost by just sending the energy from one place to another. If we can make room temperature superconductors, again type of problem we can analyze on a quantum computer, we'd get that 15 percent back. That's a large amount of energy that we lose every year.   Jason Howard: Just between the actual cost of generating the energy, obviously the extra work that goes directly, that gets put into trying to make it more efficient, to transfer it, you solve those problems and you kind of work backwards and there's kind of savings all the way up the chain until you know the actual energy creation process.   Dave Wecker: Exactly.   Jason Howard: Wow. These are like some real-world things that you're potentially solving here, this isn't just some hypothetical, "Hey, we think we could potentially try something crazy." Like they are actual problems that exist right now, then obviously there are some understanding behind, "Hey, once we crack this Quantum computing thing and get further with it, we're going to be able to tackle some pretty big things with it."   Dave Wecker: So we view it just like you view a co-processor in Azure—the way we use specialized GPUs, we use FPGA's, we use various processors in Azure to solve specialized problems. Like in machine learning, for example, the Quantum computer is not very good at the things the classical machine is good at. But it is good at the types of things that we're describing. By making it a co-processor in Azure, you wind up getting the best of both. You can do super-computing like classical work in Azure, and then offload the work that is best done on a quantum computer to it and now you can solve definitely real-world problems as soon as the technology becomes available.   Jason Howard: So, obviously knowing the problems that the world is facing, we could get into an all-day conversation about ideas you have, problems you want to tackle and things like that. But when it comes to doing your day to day job, what's your favorite part of it, what actually gets you up in the morning and gets you excited to work on these problems?   Dave Wecker: That's easy. The group I work with is some of the best people in the world in all the various areas you need. Everything from quantum physics, to materials design, to refrigeration of cryogenic systems, to cryogenic classical computing, to on and on and on, and I get free training.   I'm at the point now where if I wanted to, I could probably go back and easily get a PhD in various fields, because I've had the best people in the world hand me all the textbooks and say, "Here, read this, now read this, now do this." I get to work in the labs, I actually get to do these quantum experiments with the professionals that are there, I get to write software that analyzes the data, I get to work with building and growing materials that we use to make the devices.   So, I'm like a kid in a candy store, I get to do everything you could think of from top to bottom and I get to go all over the world at the same time and work with, like I said, the best people I've ever met.   Jason Howard: So, I want to highlight something because this definitely caught my attention as we've been talking here. So, you're not only working on the software side of things, you're creating the technology and the hardware being used to do this computing. So, you're building the platformsm on which you're then building the software on top of, to gain the outputs that you need to drive some of this technology?   Dave Wecker: That's completely correct. So, my backgrounds is electrical engineering originally. I also have a business degree, and so I actually work on what makes sense as a company that Microsoft should be doing and how we should do this and how we plan over the next decade of bringing this to fruition. And it's also the type of thing where it's like a Bell Labs or a NASA project. I can't go and buy the wires that I need to go from 15 Milli-Kelvin to 4 Kelvin. These are extremely cold, 100 times colder than outer space, and you can't even make normal wiring work, so we have to develop our own. We have to do our own connectors. We have to do our own boards, our own chips, our own materials, top to bottom. So, it's something where we really have to build all of it before we can write the software that goes on top of it.   Jason Howard: I thought it was bad trying to keep a computer cold to do basic overclocking.   Dave Wecker: Exactly. It's also the case that we really don't have to wait for the hardware. We can simulate a quantum computer up to a certain size, beyond a certain size is impossible on a classical machine, but up to about 30 qubits, it's not very hard.   So, we ship a Quantum Development Kit that we make available to the public, it's free, it's open source, it's available to the world. In that kit, you have a quantum simulator that let you write the algorithms and run them on the simulated quantum computer just like they would run on the real one. It would just have more qubits when we're done.   So, we have a very large software development effort that's going on in parallel with all the hardware and the devices, so when the hardware shows up, the software will be ready for it.   Jason Howard: Wow. Tyler.   Tyler Roush: Yes.   Jason Howard: Got to couple of questions for you.   Tyler Roush: Absolutely, let's go.   Jason Howard: Can you share a bit about what it's like to hire for the Quantum Team? Obviously, you have some pretty smart folks you're trying to bring in if they're writing their own software, creating their own hardware, obviously there's a lot of travel required to connect the dots with smart people all around the globe. This really is the cutting edge of the cutting edge. How is hiring for this Quantum Computing Team, what is it like? How do you source talent when you're talking about this level of expertise and knowledge that's required?   Tyler Roush: Sure, it's challenging, but it's the right type of challenge that I like to go after. So, when we think about the Seattle market in terms of talent, there's Amazon, there's Microsoft, it's a growing ecosystem of companies that are in the area. So, finding software engineers is relatively frequent for us to be able to go out and find people in the area, who are already located here. Even the Bay Area being really close. My experience with the Quantum Team the last two years has been a lot of international travel as well.   Most of these conferences, because it's such a small community, there's only a few that everyone will attend, and they're also located all over the world. So, Europe has been a location the last few years in trying to identify people. Then, also the types of people that are in the field right now, because it's just transitioning now into more of a product environment or heavily in academia.   So, when you think about having a conversation about career with someone, that conversation looks a lot different if they're coming from Amazon or another industry company that we're familiar with versus someone who might be a professor at an academic institution. The considerations they have to make, if they have PhD students, the considerations they have to make, if they're on tenure track, and so just that career conversation has been a really interesting perspective to have to learn the last two years.   Jason Howard: It sounds like there's a lot to be done between the theoretical side of things where people are exploring and trying to forge new ground and make a name for themselves. As opposed to jumping into what would be a more professional track, where you go and you're pouring your expertise into a company, actually doing some of the development there. How does the split work between doing it in a more academic environment versus a professional environment, like here at Microsoft?   Tyler Roush: So, from the conversations that I've had in the past with candidates, it's different, and I think there's a little bit of education that usually happens in the conversations as well. So, when people think about an industry company, they usually think about very product-oriented goals, tight deadlines, and in research, there's a lot of autonomy that you have to be able to draw your own research, and essentially go after topics that you really find interesting. In Microsoft Research as well as the Quantum Computing Group, that's still the case.   So, just having to really educate people about the experience of what it's like working at Microsoft. Some of the biggest advantages, as opposed to being a professor, is you don't have to raise money. When you are a professor, you have to go and find grants to your students all the time. That's a lot of work that professors don't tend to get associated with. But, for us in working for Microsoft, there's a lot more time that you could actually spend researching the topic that you want to research, whether some of the materials work that Dave was mentioning.   That was actually what I was thinking of as well when he gave his answer there. Quantum materials development, I think, is one of the most interesting areas that we'll see in quantum computing in the future, just because there's this convergence of the physical, digital, and biological worlds happening. I think quantum computing is really going to drive that more than ever. As we've seen things like retail go automated and digital more and more, it'll be about the biological worlds coming into some of the alloy development, or fertilizer work.   Dave Wecker: I'd also like to add that we have realized to go further in this, we really need to work tightly with academic institutions. So, as such, we've supported the labs at various locations especially in Delft in the Netherlands, in Copenhagen in Denmark, Purdue in the United States, Sydney in Australia.   At those sites, we've also created a Microsoft lab. So, you can be a Microsoft employee, work at the lab side-by-side with the academic lab, and actually go back and forth between the two. The principal investigators actually run both labs that we have at each site. So, this lets us also recruit locally. It lets us work very tightly with the university on the research they're doing, as well as working towards engineering the solutions we need that we could then bring back to Redmond, and actually do work here.   Jason Howard:  Oh, interesting. So, at least from what I'm picking up from the conversation so far, there's this nice balance that has been achieved, at least within this small community of-- being small currently, right? Who knows what the future holds? I expected to get much bigger over the course of time. It sounds like the candidates that exists in this field, some of them have some practical world experience of doing some development at a company, be it Microsoft or elsewhere, obviously. But, it sounds like it's not just people who've got electrical engineering degrees, right? Obviously there's computer sciences involved, but it sounds like there's a lot of physics involved here, probably some chemistry along the way. It isn't just, "Hey, I've been sitting at a keyboard punching away and learning a programming language." There's way more to this than that.   Dave Wecker: Very true. I've worked in a lot of fields that intersect with computer science over time, and we find it's actually easier to take computer science people and teach them, in this case the physics, versus taking physicists and teaching them computer science.   So, we don't try to turn the physicists into computer scientists, we instead take computer science, embed them in the labs with the physicists, and have them help. So, we've written entire software infrastructure just for running lab equipment, called Q codes, which is available open source on the net, that will run all of this various equipment from Python, let you run from a Jupyter Notebook, or anything internally.   You can also use the Quantum Development Kit that I mentioned at the beginning, and that is an environment that uses all the.NET languages. It also interfaces to Python as well and Jupyter Notebooks, but it actually is a new language called Q#, which we've shipped, that makes quantum computing as easy to implement as any of the other languages in computer science.   Jason Howard: Wait, so you're telling me there was a new programming language- excuse me programming language written?   Dave Wecker: For quantum.   Jason Howard:  Wow.   Dave Wecker: It's shipped at under Visual Studio. It runs under VS code, and actually if, Miles will mention, if we go to, that's everything we do in quantum. It's under there including how to get the development kit. You can also get to our blogs where we have the information on examples and samples and, for instance, all the different things in chemistry I mentioned: the materials, the examples of software written in Q#, and libraries that you can use to solve these kinds of problems.   Jason Howard: Wow, and the spreadsheets. So, Tyler I got another question for you. Obviously we've talked about some of the educational background that is involved in these type of fields and we listed some of those just a moment ago. What could be the potentially overlooked skills or personality type qualities in some of these candidates? Is there anything specific that you're finding in the candidates for these roles that would help somebody thrive in this type of environment?   Tyler Roush: I don't know that I could say that there's a hard skill associated with someone that does or is more apt to be in the quantum field. Honestly, I think our evangelism team is doing an excellent job when you talk about it being a growing field. They're working with a lot of universities and more and more so every day in trying to implement quantum education as part of the work that happens in masters and PhD programs now and specifically around our Q# programming language. So, University of Bristol, there was an event last month that we held where students were coming up and asking us about our Q# language.   To Dave's point, trying to teach computer scientists Q# and Quantum programming through normal mechanisms that computer scientists would use is the ultimate goal, so that you don't have to have as much inherent knowledge on physics, on quantum development in order to participate in the field.   Jason Howard:  So, I've got a question here that I'm super curious about. Say you were interviewing David here for Laurel, said he didn't work at Microsoft, what kind of questions would you ask him?   Tyler Roush: That's a great question I have to admit here. So, I guess my answer to that would be a little different than you might expect. So, obviously quantum computing is a very technical field, so most of the conversations that I have revolve around career and personal goals more so than the hard technical skills and what they're involved in. What I typically like to do is try to understand what someone might be working on in their publication work, start the conversation there as far as what their career topical interests and just beginning to understand the person and what they're looking for as far as employment contracts.   The reason for it is because it's such a small field, the idea is to screen people in, not to screen people out and so once we can identify people that are strong candidates in the field, it's more about trying to nurture our relationship with particular people then dismiss people who might not meet X, Y, Z requirement.    I think the paradigm of recruiting is supply and demand and so I think of it very similar to AI. Five years ago, AI was a very small field and now Microsoft has done things like implement the AI school in trying to broaden the people that are involved in the field. Quantum is going to I think take the same trajectory as followers growth and the people in it but yes, current state it's very opposite to how you might think of traditional recruiting work.   Jason Howard: So, Dave obviously we've talked a lot about education and past and histories and things like that. So, looking back on your education and career, what prepared you for the job that you have today? Did you see this coming a year, excuse me, even like a decade ago? Like did you know that this is what you would be working on?   Dave Wecker: No. Not even close. I actually had a career before Microsoft as an International Business Consultant, that where I ran around the world working in developing countries, bringing computer science there. When I came to Microsoft, I worked on all the little devices, handheld PC, Pocket PC, auto PC, I was the architect for all of those and development manager. Worked up to the Cloud, did a lot of work on the early cloud work page ranking, things like that efficiently. Along the way, the quantum team that was just beginning at that point didn't have any software tools.   It was all about the physics, it was all about the how do we make a device that will do what we want? Again, Microsoft has a very unique approach called topological quantum computing, which is a whole separate subject, but there was nothing to support what we were doing, so I wrote a simulator and that became what was known as Liquid that we shipped a number of years ago and was the predecessor to all the Q# work that you're seeing now and the QDK. But it was one of those things where all the software had been done, had been done by grad students as part of their doctorate.   What that means is they just did enough to get the doctorate and things that didn't work and things that were just cobbled together were left that way. There was no professional effort. The Liquid was the first example of what happens, we do professional computer science and apply it to the problem of quantum computing. And it was something that led us scale to approach some of the problems that we'll be able to solve on a real quantum computer someday.   So, my background was more of a generic type of thing, I've had all sorts of jobs over time, I used to say, “I just can't keep a job,” but it's also the case that my position as architect, architect is not a job you really train for. It something that along the way you've picked up the experience. You've gotten to the point where you understand how to build things that are going to last as opposed to, "I'm going to program something to a set of specs, get it done, get it out the door" which is more tactical, you have to get that done.   Architects are more looking at, "I want to build a framework that even if we only implement a little of it, leads to something that lasts for five years, ten years and beyond.” This is why things like internet protocols and the web standards and so forth are things that are architected, because they have to last for a long time.   Well, when you build a system this complex, you have to architect it, it has to be something that, you kind of have changed things but along the way you want to make sure much of it survives over time. I think it's more of an experience type of thing. You get as much training in many areas as you can, educationally, but you also get as much practical experience along the way. As I said, my backgrounds are in hardware, software business in all different areas and then I can pull it all together and use it in this position. So, this for me is the dream job. It's perfect for me.   Jason Howard: So, knowing how broad and diverse your background is, are there any specific skills that you found through your past and your jobs and the changes, the not keeping a job experience that you've had, are there any particular skills that have served you well but they are not to just served you well but it turns out that you may not have expected it but were actually super important to where you are right now.   Dave Wecker: Listening. Learning. In fact, my previous boss Burton Smith who kind of started a lot of this program, used to only ask me two questions on my review and the two questions were, "What have you learned, and are you having fun?" Because if you enjoy what you're doing and you keep learning and growing, the rest will come naturally. Those are the main skills. I really think I spend a lot of time getting educated, and there's always more, and applying it where I can and then training others.   A lot of my job is imparting this information. Quantum is something that doesn't come naturally to a lot of people. I think Feynman said it doesn't come naturally to anyone. So, it's one of those things where I spend a lot of time just linking up parts of the program and saying, "You should talk to you, because the two of you are actually working on things that intersect even though they don't look like it. And you really should talk to each other." That's a lot of my job.   Jason Howard: I find it utterly fascinating. Like you have this awesome job and I'm just like, "I didn't even know we were working on this stuff." Until Satya showed some of this stuff on stage, I was like, "Wait a minute, what are we doing?" I always use my mom as an example because she's just she's my mom, she's old school.   This is not anything that would ever cross her plate. It's not something she'd ever seek it on the internet. She would never do research on it. Every time we do these and I do the webcasts that we do, she learns a little something and then we end up having phone call she's like, "Okay. So, I didn't understand this, tell me about it."   So, it's like this whole trickle-down effect. I will never be as smart as you. I will never do a tenth of the things that you've done obviously, but you talking and having this conversation with me, gives me a few little nuggets of knowledge and then I'll go pass those to my mom and she can go talk to other people. I think just getting people interested in this, is enough to help get the wave going.   Dave Wecker: I spend a lot of time at parties with my wife's friends explaining quantum. I get a question almost at every party where, “I heard this, and I saw this in the press, what does it mean?” Most of all of it is explainable. None of it is really stuff that's over anyone's head. It's just you're not familiar with it. You haven't heard it.   If anyone's interested also on, we have a whole bunch of information for everybody including, there's a talk by me that's an hour-long talk on the overview of quantum and how Microsoft's effort is different and how it fits in with the rest. But we've been doing quantum since the year 2000 and we created Station Q in 2006, it's just nobody knew it. So, we've been at this for a long time.   Tyler Roush: Not to overstate it but that Liquid system that Dave mentioned, I think it was one of two compiler systems in the entire industry at one point, not too long ago?   Jason Howard:  My goodness.   Tyler Roush: And this year, it was up to six. So, even over the last couple of years, it has grown significantly.   Jason Howard:  Wow. So, stepping back up a level, right? Obviously, in the technological sphere as a whole, we're in a period where technology is advancing at a much more rapid pace, which has happened since computing was invented. We're kind of always on this massive upward trajectory where something new is always around the corner.   Do either of you have any advice for new grads, people coming in right out of high school, or coming out of college who may not have known that this was a thing. It may have caught their interest if they had known about it beforehand. Any advice for those folks, or even some seasoned pros out there who are wondering how they can keep up. Obviously, you mentioned the link earlier. If there's folks who want to decide what direction they should pursue their career, if this is something they’re interested in.   We talked about job roles versus candidates and things like that, but there's somebody out there who would be a good fit in this, but they don't know it yet. How do you get your foot in the door?   Dave Wecker: Well the easiest, using the Quantum Development Kit. Download it, and start writing some code, look at the examples. There's a large set of documentation with samples, with libraries, with all the things you need to get started.   Earlier this month there was a contest for people to just come in and write Q# code and compete in, and we're running events all the time. It's something that is free it's easy. If you write software, you'll find in five minutes you can be writing a quantum algorithm. It's not that hard to get the basics and to get started. Details are going take a little while, but everything does, that's why it needed a new language among other things, but it's also something that you can do easily on your own. You can get started, there's more and more college programs starting now for training.   If you're coming from the computer science side, that's happening. Coming from the physics side, quantum information is becoming more and more of a thing that's being trained. University of Washington has a class where they do quantum information now, and there's various places that you can move on to the computer science side from the physics. So you can go both directions and it's more just explore and see what's available.   Tyler Roush: I think the advice I'd give to any candidate is to continue to think of your career as retooling into the current world. For computer science in the case of quantum, one of the interesting conversations that I had with my boss recently was, when he had started his career in recruiting, Webmaster was the most sought after profession, because the internet had just come out everybody was going to be a Webmaster. And so you think about how computing is changed to more distributed systems, Cloud oriented environment, AI, which is prevailing more and more today, and then the future in quantum computing just to continue to think about the relevance of programming in these modern systems.   The way that I understand quantum computing too, there is going to be a particular market for it, and so it's not going to overhaul all of computing systems but there'll be a certain application for it.   Dave Wecker: It's worth mentioning that quantum computing is a different mindset when you write programs. There are certain things that don't work, and certain things that do work compared to classical that you're used to.   You can't make temporary variables, you can't make a temporary that you copy something into, do work, and throw it away, it's actually impossible on a quantum algorithm. Most of the algorithms you write have to be able to run forwards and backwards. You have to be able to start from a state, run your algorithm, and then run the whole algorithm backwards and get back to where you started. This is very different than classical.   So, the mindset is different. If you love solving puzzles, it's a great area because every program is a puzzle solution of how do I figure this out, how do I make it do something I want it to do within the restrictions. So, it is something that takes practice, that takes a mind shift.   But also we found that a lot of the things we do in quantum because they're so different, let us solve things on the classical side we couldn't before. Because you've now thought about the problem from a different way, and we have a whole effort on Azure in quantum inspired algorithms, things we've learned in quantum that we've brought back say for machine learning that we now do Quantum inspired algorithms for machine learning on classical machines. So it also will help classical programmers to have this idea of how you think differently for quantum, and then applying that back to classical.   Jason Howard: Well I've got to say this has been a completely fascinating conversation for me, I mean even just in this short little back and forth between us. I've learned a ton. There's way more to come in this field as you continue to make new hardware, and make new software, and apply it to the problems that actually exist out in the world. So, as we wrap up here, are there any parting words or tidbits of advice you'd like to share with our listeners?   Dave Wecker: I think that quantum gives us an opportunity. It's a paradigm shift. It gives us a different way to think about problems, different way to solve problems. And it's something that is new. We've been computing with the same types of bits and numbers for thousands of years and this is a different way to do it.   One area we've left out of all this is math.on't forget about this if you're a Math major also, because a lot of the things are fundamental things in math, especially in topology and various other areas that besides physics and computer science, there's another way to come at this. And we have a large group of theoreticians in Santa Barbara at Microsoft working in this area as well. This is the home of Station Q, where it started, so this actually started as a mathematical idea, and moved out into the rest of it.   Alexei Kitaev is probably the father of topological quantum computing, and has worked with us from the beginning on this. Michael Friedman who heads Station Q in Santa Barbara, is a Fields Medalist. In math, that's the equivalent of the Nobel Prize. He's the only one working in industry, and has been with Microsoft since around 2000, working on this problem and trying to turn it into a reality. So, these are some of the best people in the world.   When I said that at the beginning, I really meant it I mean these are the Nobel Prize level people that are solving the problem, and we get to work with them every day here. So, I think it's a great job and a great place to be.   Tyler Roush: I'm just impressed with the leap that quantum computing will take--no pun intended--but when I first started with this group, I was thinking of Moore's Law and the trajectory that computing power has taken every two years. Moore's Law it doubles, and we get more computing power now. We can do more on our phone than we could 30 years ago with a computer.   So to think about quantum computing, it is exponentially faster to the point of almost being unexplainably faster, and I think the power that will come along with that will create an entirely new job market for candidates. It'll be part of the computer scientists’ world to figure out how that new world develops, and if you are interested in looking for a job, Quantum Jobs at is a great place to reach me.   Jason Howard:  Awesome.   Dave Wecker: I'll give one example of that exponential that we like to just let roll off our tongues. Two hundred and fifty qubits is enough to hold more information than there are particles in the universe.   Jason Howard: That's difficult just a fathom, as a statement much less the actual mathematical, volume and size that's inherent in what you just said.   That's right, so when we say exponential, it really means completely different. There are things that just cannot be done in any other computing paradigm that we have that could be done here. This is why I get up in the morning and go in and work on it every day.   Jason Howard:  Well I gotta say, I really appreciate both of you popping into the studio today. It's been completely my pleasure and hopefully the listeners have enjoyed the conversation as well. Thank you for taking the time. Thank you for being in the studio today. Really appreciate it.   Dave Wecker: My pleasure   Tyler Roush: Thank you.   (Music.)   Jason Howard: Up next, the Windows Insider Program’s Tyler Ahn gets the inside scoop on what it takes to land a coveted internship at Microsoft--and, how to turn that internship into a job offer. Here’s Tyler.   Tyler Ahn: Hello insiders, our next guest in the studio today is here to talk about his experience as a Microsoft intern, and how he was able to land a full-time job offer from Microsoft. Raymond, welcome to the show.   Raymond Ononiwu:  Hey Tyler. Thank you, thank you for having me.   Tyler Ahn: Could you introduce yourself to our listeners and share a few words on your background and what you do here at Microsoft.   Raymond Ononiwu: My name is Raymond Uchenna Ononiwu, and I was born and raised in Lagos Nigeria. The unique thing about Lagos is that it teaches you to dream. Most people who have been to Lagos have interactive with Lagosians know we have this dogged determination to succeed at things. At the age of 17, I moved across the world to go to college. I started out doing Civil Engineering at Michigan Tech and three years into Civil Engineering program, I switched to Computer Science. Everyone thought I was crazy, but I figured it was a feature. It was necessary for me to do. I'm currently a software engineer for the CoreOS and Intelligent Edge here at Microsoft.   Tyler Ahn: What prompted you to switch from Civil Engineering to Software Engineering?   Raymond Ononiwu: It was actually one of those things that happened by chance. I didn't get to use a computer till I was 15 and on the long list of things I thought I could do, working with computers and computer science was not one of them. I remember a friend of mine at some point handed me, this was interesting, he said to me, he said you'd be really good at this computer thing and I just waved it off as though we're nothing and he handed me a Cisco switch and a book about routing and it actually had never occurred to me how an email gets from one end to another.   After reading the book and playing around with the switch, something just changed. I became fascinated with how information moves, digital information moves from one point to another, and that spurred the change to figure out what career path I had to take or what I had to learn at school in order to make this a career path and that's what spurred the change to Computer Science.   Tyler Ahn: That's so cool. Well, so what I heard was that you were once upon a time an intern here and internships are incredibly competitive these days especially with technology companies like Microsoft. Can you share what your experience was like applying for that internship.   Raymond Ononiwu:  Well, it was quite an interesting one. I remember seeing a Microsoft recruiting booth on campus. It was during career fair I think, and I dropped off my resume, I didn't think much about it. I didn't actually think I had the opportunity. I didn't see a computer ‘till I was 15, and working with computers wasn't on my list of things to do.   When I got an email regarding the interview, I was quite elated because I didn't think I'd make it that far, and I remember my on-campus interview was with a guy named Jim Pemburton, and I spent about 35 minutes with Jim and I decided I wanted to work at Microsoft. He was excited and he had a lot of knowledge that he was willing to share which was quite frankly what I looked for in a company.   Past that point, we got invited, I got called for an on-campus interview which was, it was a little bit of a mix between, I would say being at the Grammy's and rigorous day, five 45-minute interviews to test our problem solving and design skills. I got my offer the same day at about midnight and I spent another 30 to 45 minutes convincing my parents that it was the same Microsoft that makes windows.   So it was quite an interesting process.   Tyler Ahn: That is so awesome. So what I guess you don't know really why they called you out of the stack of resumes, but in your view, what do you think helped you successfully land the internship? What made you stand out as a candidate?   Raymond Ononiwu:  I think through the course of the interviews, showing that I was a learner was very important. I asked for a lot of feedback and I was more, the interview quite frankly went both ways. I was being interviewed and the entire time, I was actually interviewing the people who I was talking to. I think the ability to show that you can embrace the future was quite important.   One of the key things I believe helped me make it through that interview was the fact that I had switched majors in my third year and decided you know what, this is what the future's going to be and I need to go down that direction. It was quite a bold move and I think that stood out through the course of the interview.   Tyler Ahn: The ability to embrace the future.   Raymond Ononiwu: Yes.   Tyler Ahn: And the unknown.   Raymond Ononiwu: And the unknown, yeah.   Tyler Ahn: Well looking back, what was your internship experience like? What was most valuable? What skills did you gain in the months that you were here?   Raymond Ononiwu: Let's see. So, the internship itself was quite fun because I had a few other people from my school who were interning at the same time. One of the things I realized quite early was that as an intern, you have a golden key that unlocks doors to different opportunities.   You have a company that has people who are experts in their field, and you can always reach out and say, hey, can I have lunch and pick your brain and just soak up as much knowledge as you can. I think that was the biggest takeaway for me. The caliber of people that I got to work with and meet was quite amazing.   Tyler Ahn:What was the best piece of advice that you received during your days here as an intern? Or maybe even as a career Microsofty?   Raymond Ononiwu: I think the best advice I received as an intern was from Felicia Guitti, I believe. She is the GM of marketing, worldwide marketing, she was at the time, and I remember having lunch with her and she said to me, you decide what comes off of this process. Do a lot of the hard work and when you have to engage with people be very direct about what it is you need them to do for you or what you can do for them.   It's important to know those things in any kind of engagement or interaction with people at the company. Don't waste people's time, but also always have value to offer in any situation.   Tyler Ahn: How have you used that piece of advice?   Raymond Ononiwu: Oh, interestingly, I'm more in the social end of things. I tend to chit chat a lot with people but I will say, through the course of my time here at Microsoft, being able to articulate what it is that I can do for people has been important. You tend to build a brand over time, right?   People start to figure out what they know you for, and for me it turned out to be network, and I seem to know practically everyone. It's gotten to a point where even when new people show up at the company, especially who are Africans, the first email is reach out to Raymond, he'll figure out who you need to meet or what you need to do. So, I think it's connecting people that has become sort of my brand here at the company.   Tyler Ahn: Fantastic. So, we know that many interns are dreaming of working full time for Microsoft and with so many bright candidates only few actually realize that dream. What in your view helped you land that job offer after the internship was over?   Raymond Ononiwu: The people you work with make a huge difference. So when you look at yourself as a candidate for employment anywhere, you need to think about why you would hire yourself and be very honest and critical about it. Are you willing to learn quickly? Can you share your knowledge with other people?   I tend to think of it as coming prepared with the right tools but still leave enough space in your toolbox for new things. I think one of the interesting things I saw when I started here was that everyone who worked here either as an engineer and any other role had life experience, they had other things in their lives that they did.   So, the crazy things that I do in my life, be it racing or playing soccer or playing music, still mattered. Those things are equally as important because, in order for us to build great products we need to experience life first and figure out how to improve life using engineering. So, I think that was quite important as well.   Tyler Ahn: Learning how to crash the Oscars perhaps?   Raymond Ononiwu:  Yes, that too.   Tyler Ahn: So any other wise and sage career advice you can offer new grads dreaming about working here at Microsoft?   Raymond Ononiwu: First off, join the Insider Program. That's important.   Tyler Ahn: Thanks for that plug.   Raymond Ononiwu: Form a habit of learning, not just the easy things but the difficult things as well. Learn to create clarity. Making complicated things simple is not an easy feat. So you have to practice a lot to be good at it. Practice everything. Be curious and don't just practice the engineering bit encoding, look into other aspects of life? How does your brain work? What is cancer? What makes it such a deadly disease, right?   Understanding those things that seem to be outliers usually are the key to solving a lot of problems. When you get there just enjoy it, time flies. It passes quickly, just enjoy it as much as you can.   Tyler Ahn: Raymond, that wasn't just great career advice, that was excellent life advice as well. Thank you so much for joining us today, and to all the new grads out there, we wish you the best on your career journey and thank you for listening today insiders.   (Music.)   Jason Howard: That’s a wrap for Episode 17. If you enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to subscribe on your favorite podcast app. You can also find all of our previous episodes on the Windows Insider website: Thanks again for listening, and until next time!   (Music.)   NARRATION:  The Windows Insider Podcast is produced by Microsoft Production Studios and the Windows Insider team, which includes Tyler Ahn -- that's me -- Michelle Paison, Ande Harwood, and Kristie Wang.   Visit us on the Web at  Follow @windowsinsider on Instagram and Twitter.   Support for the Windows Insider Podcast comes from Microsoft -- empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.   Please subscribe, rate, and review this podcast wherever you get your podcasts.   Moral support and inspiration come from Ninja Cat, reminding us to have fun and pursue our passions.   Thanks, as always, to our program's co-founders, Dona Sarkar and Jeremiah Marble. Join us next month for another fascinating discussion from the perspectives of Windows Insiders.   END
7/25/201842 minutes, 29 seconds
Episode Artwork

Next Level Gaming

What’s next for the future of gaming? To find out, Dona Sarkar chats with Joe Neate, Executive Producer of the hit pirate adventure, Sea of Thieves. Joe talks about major gaming trends that are influencing Sea of Thieves and the expansion of the game’s rich storylines. Next, we explore the growing popularity of game streaming by chatting with Microsoft’s Mixer team. Marketing director Jenn McCoy and engineer Chad Gibson discuss how the Mixer platform is sparking new experiences in gameplay and innovations in game design. Finally, we catch up with Windows Insiders at E3 and get their impressions on what’s most exciting about the future of gaming.     Episode Transcription JASON HOWARD:  You're listening to the Windows Insider Podcast, Episode 16 -- Next-Level Gaming.  I'm your host, Jason Howard. This episode, we'll be chatting about exciting trends hitting the gaming universe -- namely, gaming as a service, and interactive live streaming with Mixer.  First up, Dona Sarkar, head of the Windows Insider Program, sits down with Joe Neate, executive producer at Rare.  Rare is the game developer behind Sea of Thieves, the multi-player pirate adventure that has taken Xbox and Windows 10 by storm.  Here's Dona and Joe. (Music.) (Sea of Thieves pirate audio clip.) The life of a pirate is fraught with danger. For you see, to journey out onto the waves is to take a step into the unknown. There are things that have lived there and rulled there far longer than us. Great terrors from the deep. Some I’ve seen with my own eye. DONA SARKAR:  Hello, again, Insiders!  I'm Dona Sarkar, head of the Windows Insider Program.  And you just heard a snippet from one of the new content trailers for Sea of Thieves.  Here to talk about Sea of Thieves and new trends in the gaming universe is a very special guest -- Joe, welcome to the show.  Could you start by introducing yourself to our audience and sharing a few words about what you do? JOE NEATE:  Yes.  So I'm Joe Neate, and I'm the executive producer on Sea of Thieves.  Ultimately, I've been involved in the project from the very start from when it was kind of just Post-Its on a whiteboard figuring out what was next for Rare, through to what it is now.  Yeah, ultimately, responsible for vision and maintaining the vision and delivery and now running and operating, growing it as a service. DONA SARKAR:  That's amazing.  I want to ask you all about the latest Sea of Thieves news -- our Insiders definitely want to know.  But first, can you please share what it's like to be the executive producer at a gam dev company like Rare, being the chief wrangler and all? JOE NEATE:  It's an amazing responsibility.  So to have that responsibility of coming up with what is next for a studio like Rare.  You know, Rare has been in the gaming industry for 32 years now, which is pretty much since the games industry began, and they've done so many different games.  And so to have that opportunity to sit down and look at the kind of emerging trends in the industry, to see where player tastes are going and figure out what you think is going to be the place you should take gaming and you should take players with you is an incredible feeling.  Even just the different stages of game development from when you've just got the idea through to kind of pitching it to prototyping to getting into the real production of it, and then starting to build a community and bring fans in and then get people playing it and go through all of that, and then eventually get to launch and have an incredible launch.  And now we're in this place where we've got this game out there, we've got this huge community, and now we just want to grow and build on top of it.  I'm very privileged to have the job that I have and to get to do what I do every day.  DONA SARKAR:  That is amazing.  So for the very few, small number of people in our audience who are not yet familiar with Sea of Thieves, can you give us a quick rundown of what the game is all about?  JOE NEATE:  Yeah.  Absolutely.  So when we set out at the start, we wanted to create what we called a "shared-world adventure game."  The acronym for that is SWAG, which we're particularly happy with for a pirate game, but we love our acronyms at Microsoft, right?  It's really about putting people into this shared-world, multi-player game where you're off on your own kind of pirate adventures, doing what you want to do in a pirate world from, you know, maybe you've grown up reading Treasure Island or you watch The Goonies or you love Pirates of the Caribbean, or anything like that.  And whenever you see a set of sails on the horizon, or you encounter another pirate on an island, that's going to be someone else.  And they're going to be on their own adventure doing their own things, too.  And the collision of those adventures, the encounters you have with other players out there are going to play out in different and unexpected ways every time, just like if you were, you know, a pirate out adventuring on the open sea.  And that's the world we wanted to create, where every time you play, the adventure is different, the encounters are different, and you're going to have these really memorable moments and stories that you want to tell your friends or you want to share and you want to stream it on Mixer or on Twitch, or you want to just go and post it on Twitter or on Reddit or wherever. And that's what we've created.  We wanted to create a world where every adventure would be different, and we can put all these ingredients in.  And as we grow and evolve it, we'll just keep doing that.  We'll keep adding new ingredients for players to play with, leading to just richer and richer moments and stories.  DONA SARKAR:  That is amazing.  One of the key ingredients, as you said, is multi-player.  Now, gamers are pretty familiar with multi-player format since the good old days of Counter-Strike, World of Warcraft, et cetera.  And multi-player continues to be a big favorite among the gaming community.  In our view, what is game-changing -- ha -- about Sea of Thieves? JOE NEATE:  I think a lot of multi-player can be very competitive and directly competitive.  You know, you listed Counter-Strike there, and if you were to go on Mixer or Twitch, you'd be looking at Fortnight and PUBG and all of those games out there now. What we've tried to create is a game where we call it the "fun and welcoming" multi-player experience.  Where maybe you haven't really got into multi-player before because you're not an overly competitive player, you don't like that high kind of ceiling or barrier to entry, or maybe you've experienced toxicity or negativity in a multi-player environment before. We tried to create a game that encourages different online interactions and encounters between players.  There's an emphasis on cooperation in crews, but also if you encounter other crews, you can have those moments, too.  And, yes, there's room for competition in a pirate game, but we've tried to do it in a way that's tonally right, that doesn't encourage real competitive multi-player.  And so we've just tried to create something that appeals to a wider group of people than perhaps are just playing multi-player now and scratches different kind of motivational itches, I guess.  That's always been our goal.  And, again, as we grow and evolve it, we want to keep doing that.  We always want to encourage different player encounters, different stories, so that you can have really memorable multi-player moments in the right way from encountering other players.  DONA SARKAR:  That fits me exactly because I'm inherently not competitive, so that idea of like a collaborative multi-player sounds super interesting.  So, can you break down this gaming-as-a-service thing that you guys are adopting and working on -- or a service-based game, as some people say?  How is it different than a boxed game that releases an expansion pack every once in a while? JOE NEATE:  We built our game form the ground up with the goal of basically updating and growing and adding content to it as far into the future as we can see, you know, as far as people will be playing and updating it.  For us, that means there's always -- we launched just over two months ago, right?  And had a fantastic launch, loads of people come in, like overwhelmingly large amounts of players coming in that far exceeded all of our expectations and numbers.  Which led to the first couple of weeks, we were stabilizing and making sure everything was working as expected.  You know, the amount of concurrent players and users we had exceeded any scale tests we'd done up to launch.  But we want to really swiftly kind of get through that phase and get into the position where we're updating the game on a weekly basis.  So we run quite a lot of automated testing internally when we're writing features and entering stuff into the game.  We try and test it as we go to try and not build up loads of technical debt.  And it means we have a decent degree of understanding when we're releasing features that the game's going to stay live, it's going to stay working.  But we've always wanted to basically have an ability to react to our players, to update, to release new content, new cosmetics, new stuff, but also whenever you play the game, we always just want there to be new things to return to. So we've just released our first content update called The Hungering Deep.  And this is where we've released this new AI threat, this megalodon into this world, so this giant shark that's now out there.  Players have to kind of hunt it down, work together to take down this threat and earn these rewards around it.  But beyond that, we then want to move into weekly events.  So every week, we're going to be introducing something cool that's new to players, like there's a new goal with a new set of rewards, a new way the play, and really, it's about keeping players engaged with your game for as long as possible and as regularly as possible because players nowadays love to keep playing in that same world and in that same kind of social space with their friends, or friends they've made playing that game.  And they love to embrace this and play for years.  Right?  We see this with a lot of games now. And so I think it's our responsibility to keep bringing new players to the Sea of Thieves, but also to give players that have played it as many reasons to return and to keep playing it because that's how player behavior has gone with whichever game it is that's out there now -- PUBG or Fortnight or League of Legends or World of Warcraft -- many different things.  But we've set ourselves up to be able to keep delivering new things, to keep listening to what players are saying, and also change our plan.  We want to be very reactive based on what feedback is coming in, what telemetry is telling us, and what other things players are liking the most, what things that they want to see more of. I think that kind of direct communication with your community in terms of listening to feedback, updating them to what you're doing is a super important part of the games as a service because if you just go dark or go quiet and don't talk to your players, don't let them know that you're listening, don't let them know what you're doing next, don't let them know that you're listening to their feedback and you're hearing it, they won't stay connected and they'll start mistrusting you and everything. We're trying to deliver a game that players love and that players want to keep playing for years, ultimately, but that's a big "ask" from us to our players.  And so I think there's a big responsibility for us as a studio and as a development team to be very open and transparent, to let people know what we're doing, why we're doing it, what we're making decisions and that we're in this for the long haul and that we're very respectful of the feedback and opinions they have.  That's been a big part of our strategy prior to launch with our Insider program that we have for Sea of Thieves, and then post launch as well, we're behaving very much the same. DONA SARKAR:  So you're very much co-creating with your Insiders, the game, what they're looking for, et cetera, et cetera? JOE NEATE:  Yes.  DONA SARKAR:  That's awesome.  As you know, Windows Insider Program is all about getting users involved in the evolution of Windows, and I love hearing that Rare has its own Insider program where you do something similar, and your fans have had a heavy hand in this gaming-as-a-service thing that you guys are doing, which is fabulous. So, Sea of Thieves is gorgeous.  I am bad at playing it, but I like to watch people play.  So this is where Mixer is really useful for me, because I think it's beautiful and absorbing both in terms of visuals and the stories.  And for people like me, how is the trend of live streaming games, such as on Mixer and such, factored into the design of Sea of Thieves?  Because I recently learned that the number of people watching people play games has surpassed the number of people actually playing games.  I find that fascinating and wonder how it affects your design plans. JOE NEATE:  Yeah.  So we conceived Sea of Thieves about four years ago now in terms of just coming up with the idea, coming up with what we want it to be.  And before it was even a pirate game, and way before it was called Sea of Thieves, the original pitch slides was called Players Creating Stories Together.  And we always envisioned a game that because you give players this shared world, because you kind of give them control over their own goals and you give them a bunch of emergent tools, and those encounters with other players, in a world where there's some cooperation, some competition, would lead to really interesting stories which are naturally going to be watchable and shareable.  So it, inherently, was built into the game's design from the very start.  And, you know, we were watching games like DayZ back in the day, like even a big science fiction space opera.  There were really interesting stories emerging from them, whether it was on YouTube at the time because Twitch had only really started up and Mixer wasn't even a thing then. But we saw this avenue of -- this was the way that we thought games were going, that the more emergence and control that you let go of, and as game creators, it's quite hard to relinquish control, right, and hand it to our players, because you naturally want to create this crafted experience where everyone has this perfect story or moment or thing that you've designed, whereas we now hand control of the game to our players, and we give them some goals and there are things to go and achieve. But also the thing that we're most excited about and the thing that we love the most is whenever there's an unexpected story or a moment that we didn't predict from the different tools we've given players.  And so it's been inherent in the design from the get go from two perspectives, from a cold, hard, business and strategic perspective, we made a really good choice because of the way that the games industry has taken off in that way over the last four years.  But from a richness of watching, and like I say, every adventure being different, it kind of depends who you're watching and what they're up to and what players they encounter or what things happen to them in the world, that's what makes it so watchable, because you never know what's going to happen, right?  Everyone's adventure is different.  It's not like everyone's playing to the same story.  You get to see their reactions to it, but once you've seen it once, you're done.  But you can watch Sea of Thieves with any players, anybody, and it's going to be different each time based on their reactions, based on their personality because they get to put their personality into the stream, into the session that they're broadcasting.  DONA SARKAR:  I love watching gamers because they're all so different, and tremendously entertaining to watch, especially if they're streaming on Mixer.  So I'm sure, like me, you're about to head into E3 and the pandemonium that comes with it, but this podcast won't air until after E3's done.  Are there any updates on Sea of Thieves that you'd like to give us a sneak peek of? JOE NEATE:  At E3, itself, we're going to turn up with another little teaser trailer and what this is showing is kind of a glimpse into what's coming in Cursed Sails and The Forsaken Shores, which are our next two content updates beyond The Hungering Deep, which has just come out prior to E3. So in Cursed Sails, we're introducing a new AI threat into the world that you're going to get a glimpse of, and it's quite fantastical in the trailer itself, and it's something that we've never really let our players know is coming, so that's going to be fun. And then The Forsaken Shores is actually a new part of the world that's much more perilous, much more volcanic, so there's going to be a really interesting, more dangerous part of the world to adventure into and explore for players.  And both of those are coming during the summer. DONA SARKAR:  The Forsaken Shores, I'm going to name my office that, that sounds amazing.  Yeah.  That sounds pretty cool.  Awesome.  Well, we're about out of time.  Thank you so much for being here, Joe.  I really, really appreciate your time.  And be more pirate.  Thank you.  JOE NEATE:  Yes.  Thank you very much. Cheers. (Music.) JASON HOWARD:  As Dona mentioned, game streaming is becoming extremely popular with more people today watching games that be playing them.  Gaming broadcasts can command massive audiences.  As this trend continues to develop, it's becoming clear that game streaming isn't limited to being a spectator sport. Platforms like Mixer are unleashing new interactive features that enable viewers to participate alongside streamers, including participation in live game play.  With Mixer recently celebrating its one-year anniversary, we have Microsoft engineers from the Mixer team here in the studio to chat about the future of game streaming.  (Music.) JASON HOWARD:  Hi, Jenn and Chad, welcome to the show.  Could you each introduce yourselves to our audience? JENN MCCOY:  Sure.  I'm Jenn McCoy, I lead marketing for Mixer. CHAD GIBSON:  And my name's Chad Gibson, and I'm the general manager of Mixer.  JASON HOWARD:  Welcome aboard.  JENN MCCOY:  Thanks.  JASON HOWARD:  So I've go to ask you real quick.  Obviously, you know, gaming is a big thing here at Microsoft and, you know, of course across the world, right?  Who is your game character alter ego and why do you think they are? JENN MCCOY:  Usually I play RPGs where I get to make my alter character me.  JASON HOWARD:  Oh, okay.  JENN MCCOY:  Yeah. JASON HOWARD:  So you make your own self yourself?  JENN MCCOY:  A little bit.  Maybe a little taller.  (Laughter.)  CHAD GIBSON:  I'm usually a support player.  Like in most games I play, I usually support or heal.  So maybe like Lucio from Overwatch, I like him a lot.  He's pretty cool because he makes people either faster or he helps them heal.  That resonates with me really well.  JASON HOWARD:  Immediately having flashbacks to the Medic in Team Fortress 2. CHAD GIBSON:  Yeah, Medic as well.  JASON HOWARD:  I was always a heavy because, well, you know?  It's just always fun that way.  CHAD GIBSON:  Playing Tank is fun, playing Tank is a lot of fun, too.  (Laughter.) JASON HOWARD:  So for those who are unfamiliar with Mixer, could you briefly summarize what Mixer is, what the platform represents? JENN MCCOY:  Yeah.  Mixer is Microsoft's next-generation live streaming service where we really seek to blur the lines between what it means to watch and to play.  Chad, do you want to talk a little bit about how we do that?  CHAD GIBSON:  Sure.  Yeah.  We really want to help streamers interact with their audience more.  So we have our streaming technology called Faster Than Light, which allows us to stream with milliseconds of delay between the streamer and their audience.  So anything the audience is saying, the streamer can pick up on that really quick and it helps the two really interact more.  Low latency also enables interactivity, where we have a bunch of experiences where viewers can do anything from trigger sound effects or actually manipulate the game they're watching someone play.  It really helps make the audience a member of the game and a part of the game and bring them closer with the broadcaster.  And we have a bunch of other features we do as well that really help deliver new and unique streaming experiences, like co-streaming, where a bunch of users can kind of stream together, play the game together, tell the story of their campaign, of their team, or whatever fun story they want to tell.  JASON HOWARD:  Awesome.  So real quick, because I don't want to forget this part, because this is actually kind of important, Mixer just celebrated its one-year anniversary.  CHAD GIBSON:  Yeah. JASON HOWARD:  So, congratulations, right?  JENN MCCOY:  Thank you.  JASON HOWARD:  And you guys have definitely come a long way, some of the numbers that have been kind of passed around, it's like the user base has quadrupled, if I understand that correctly? JENN MCCOY:  Yes.  So we announced back in December that we exceeded 10 million monthly active users for the first time.  And then Phil, on Sunday, announced that Mixer's grown to more than 20 million monthly active users.  JASON HOWARD:  Oh, my goodness.  JENN MCCOY:  So doubling in the past six months.  It's just been incredible to see how much the community and the streamers and our viewers have supported the growth of the service.  JASON HOWARD:  So you're saying your marketing is working?  (Laughter.)  JENN MCCOY:  I'm saying things are going really well, we're having a lot of fun.  JASON HOWARD:  All right.  So how do you interpret this huge upswing, right?  Obviously, with the trend of game streaming in general, as well as the success of the Mixer platform itself?  Like, what's driving this?  JENN MCCOY:  As you said, there's a lot of growth in the industry overall.  More and more people are spending time watching game play and connecting with streamers, and then we've been very fortunate to have a number of amazing streamers and content creators come to the platform, really focused on growing their audience and helping be ambassadors for Mixer, helping spread the word of our really positive and welcoming community, some of the unique features that we bring, and some of the fun content that our team's putting together.  CHAD GIBSON:  Yeah, one of the things that surprised us probably the most dramatically about maybe a little over a year ago, when we started bringing native broadcasting into Windows and Xbox One, we had high hopes for that feature, but it's far surpassed all of our expectations.  We made it really easy to share and stream to Mixer, and that resonated with way more people than we thought.  And when those people started streaming on Mixer, you know, they started engaging with the community and started feeling welcomed and engaging more with the community and enjoying the community.  And that number of users who are native broadcasting has been growing phenomenally.  Like, that's probably the one growth curve and chart that is just blowing our minds.  And that enabled things like the Hype Zone, where we can allow all those people who are streaming PUBG or Fortnight or Rainbow 6 or Realm Royale to you know showcase one of those many people are about to win and deliver a nice audience to them.  And it's another great way to discover new streamers. JENN MCCOY:  Yeah.  Hyper Zone's been incredible for exactly what you say, that you can see streamers of all size, and they just have a couple of years and they have thousands of viewers, but they get in the Hype Zone and have everybody watching on the Hype Zone channel drop in and watch their moment victory or defeat, depending on how things go.  Sometimes there is the Hype Zone curse that rears its ugly head, but it's kind of fun.  JASON HOWARD:  Uh-oh, hold on, you've got to tell me, what's this Hype Zone curse? CHAD GIBSON:  It's the pressure. JENN MCCOY:  Yeah. CHAD GIBSON:  So you're streaming with your friends, you're playing PUBG or Fortnight and you're doing well and all of a sudden, you're about to win and then you have, you know, 500 or 1,000 viewers all of a sudden watching you and hyping you up. JENN MCCOY:  Pressure!  CHAD GIBSON:  The pressure, like, "I'm in the Hype Zone."  And you want to win, you want to show a victory for all those people, but sometimes the pressure can be too much. JASON HOWARD:  Uh-oh.  (Laughter.) JENN MCCOY:  So we have a custom emote that's Hype Zone cursed, Hype Zone cursed.  (Laughter.) JASON HOWARD:  I'm going to do a shameless self-pitch here.  We, on the Windows Insider Program, we actually use Mixer.  We have our webcast series where we bring on engineers and people from other teams.  It's amazing to see how quickly we say something and then just even watching on the stream, coming from a separate computer, right?  So we're watching the chat and everything.  To see how quickly it shows up and then people's reactions.  And there's no other platform that I've tested, seen, watched, anything that does it that quickly and that seamlessly.  It's amazing.  It's been beautiful to use, and I can tell just over the past year how much work has been put into the platform to not only keep it stable from where it was when Microsoft acquired what used to be Beam, but to where it's grown to now, seeing all this hard work is just amazing.  JENN MCCOY:  And that's really a big focus, exactly what you talk about -- the viewers being able to participate and be a natural part of the conversation.  We don't want live streaming to just be a one-way experience, we want the viewers to be able to come in and participate and have an impact on the stream, have an impact with each other and have a real connection with the streamer.  JASON HOWARD:  So as part of this anniversary that you've hit and some of the other milestones, obviously, there's a lot of changes that are coming to the platform.  Like, what are some of the things you're excited about that you're introducing to the platform or that you have recently brought forward for users to use or streamers to take part in and actually engage with?  CHAD GIBSON:  During the one-year celebration, we announced our UI refresh, which is in some private branches right now, and I was just playing with that this morning.  It's really exciting.  It's exciting for a couple reasons.  It allows us to showcase some unique Mixer channels, such as the Hype Zones, it also provides more ways to discover more content, more ways to get to browse filters.  There's a bunch of really fun ways to, you know, I want to watch a co-stream, I want to watch an interactive stream, I want to watch a stream in my language.  We made a bunch of those features super easy for people to find content, and it's a more polished version of Mixer. And so that should be going out soon-ish.  The feature bench is looking great, and that's something that's going to be a great improvement for everyone on Mixer.  JENN MCCOY:  And Mixer Pro subscribers can actually check it out early and give us feedback on it before we release it to the general public. CHAD GIBSON:  Yes.  They have been giving us a lot of great feedback, and it's getting better quickly.  JASON HOWARD:  I've got to admit, you know, obviously, doing what I do, preview programs hold a special place in my heart.  CHAD GIBSON:  Yeah.  (Laughter.) JENN MCCOY:  We also announced a new Hype Zone.  So we announced the Hype Zone for Rainbow Six Siege, it was the first time that we went beyond the battle royale genre to be able to bring the Hype Zone experience to just a very different type of game play. And it's been really fun to see, you know, overtime matches and really close matches come to life in the Rainbow Six Hype Zone. JASON HOWARD:  Yeah, and then, of course, with some of the more recent announcements at E3, I'm sure -- I'm not going to ask you to say what you have up your sleeve, but I'm sure you're probably working on something, because there's some really awesome content coming both from Microsoft being first party, as well as some of the third-party developers who, you know, produce games for our platforms, both for Xbox as well as PC and then of course beyond that.  There's some really cool stuff coming. CHAD GIBSON:  Yeah.  We've done a lot of, I would say, experimental experiences that really blur the line between is it a game, is it a show?  And there's a bunch of that stuff coming.  I'm really excited about that.  We had some of those developers on our stage, I believe, like we have a new Death's Door coming, which is a game that's only played via the Mixer channel, and that I think is coming at the end of June.  But that whole area of really trying to create and deliver a new medium, we have a bunch of those types of experiences coming all this summer.  JENN MCCOY:  Yeah, Death's Door will be coming out next week, Death's Door Aftermath. JASON HOWARD:  So something interesting, for me, one of my good friends, he has a young son who is really, really into Minecraft.  But he wasn't about playing Minecraft himself, he was really into watching other people play Minecraft.  So he would sit there and endlessly watch hours upon hours of YouTube videos to get ideas and see what other people were doing, what they were creating, the worlds they were exploring and playing in.  And for me, I was like, why?  Why wouldn't he want to be in there participating in the game, doing it himself, having that experience?  But I have to say, after our team having done streaming on the platform, and then of course to learn more about the platform, you know you just get in and explore, right?  So there are groups of people that I follow, games that I enjoy watching, you know, just the interaction.  It set a very different perspective for me.  I still don't want to go watch hours of videos on YouTube, right?  For those that do, hey, great, right?  Gives them ideas and, you know, some jumping-off points.  But watching somebody immersed in the game real time, and feeling like you're there with them and being able to talk to them as, you know, they're listening on their headphones and they've got the game pumping and music going, right?  They're watching the chat and having some of that interaction.  It's a very different experience than just sitting there watching some static video content on YouTube or any other platform that they may be viewing it on.  So that kind of leads me to what I want to ask you next.  With Mixplay and some of those new interactive opportunities, developers can build different types of interactions into their games.  Can you talk a bit about this trend of interactive streaming concepts?  What does it mean to interact with a live game?  And can you give us some discussions about that type of experience?  JENN MCCOY:  Yeah.  I mean, we're at a really interesting point in the gaming industry where I think the traditional definition of a player is changing.  And we even hear it from a lot of our particularly younger audiences that their belief is they've played the game, even if what they've really done is watched somebody else play it.  But as you say, like you're viewing and actually feeling like an active part of it.  And that's the core of what Mixer and Mixplay is all about is having the viewing audience feel like they are just as much a part of the gameplay experience as the person who's actually hands on controller or hands on the keyboard.  A couple of the great examples that we've seen, actually, there's a really fun one that was created internally -- Mixer Mini Golf -- where you have hundreds and hundreds of people competing in this fun mini golf experience, trying to see who gets the lowest score.  If you get the lowest score, you then get to create the course for the next round. And it's just really fun.  If you think about, mini golf doesn't sound like a multi-player or community experience, but when you've got lots of little mini golf balls running all over the place, like, it's just fun, it's entertaining, and it's a different take on what you would think of as live streaming.  CHAD GIBSON:  Yeah, I agree.  And one of my favorite examples is a game Hello Neighbor that launched -- I think it was earlier this year.  And Hello Neighbor is a game built by tinyBuild, and the goal is to basically go into your neighbor's house, steal things, take things without them seeing you.  And tinyBuild provided this mechanic where the viewers can actually alert the neighbor, which you do not want the neighbor to know you're there.  So people who are playing this game, not only do they need to, like, figure out how to, like, sneak into the neighbor's house, but now they need to do so while knowing their viewing audience may, you know -- JASON HOWARD:  Is going to rat them out. CHAD GIBSON:  -- tip them off, yeah, at any moment.  So it created this whole new game mechanic.  And some creators, it frustrated them; but some, it was such a fascinating next-level game play.  One of the things I think that we really strive for is a world where every game is built where the viewing audience is part of the game.  That's a really deep and challenging concept, which is why we're doing a bunch of different things on that journey to show what is really meaningful, what can engage the viewers without adjusting the game play in an unfair way, and that's where I think there's a lot of excitement in the months to come. JASON HOWARD:  And the gamers, themselves, obviously, they have different options they can choose on how they want to represent what they're doing to their watching audience, right?  You know, they can change some of like the floating boxes and I've seen, you know, animations drop across the stream, and of course there's the concept of subscribing to a channel.  And when that happens, you know, the balloons and the confetti drops across the screen, right?  It's a really good way to kind of co-celebrate both with the other people watching as well as the person who's actually doing the gaming.  There are some of those personal connections that get built for people that live on one side of the world versus another, or people who don't necessarily tend to get out and interact, but this gives them a way to kind of be social within a level that fits their comfort, so they don't have to go out and try to force themselves to be somebody that they're not. JENN MCCOY:  Yeah.  They're part of a community.  They have a connection, streamer and audience, or even within the audience.  People are getting to know each other, regular names that they see showing up in chat or interacting with the different buttons.  JASON HOWARD:  I will say, at E3 I saw a few of the streamers who I've, you know, interacted with and watched in the past, and walking up and you can see there's that little question or look on your face, you'll be, like, "Do I recognize you?"  Because for me, you know, the beard's pretty recognizable, and so that's just a photo of me as my avatar.  So I've got that little head-tilt look.  And I'm like, "Yes, I am @NorthFaceHiker."  JENN MCCOY:  It is me.  JASON HOWARD:  And they're, like, "Oh, hey!"  And then, you know, you just kind of kick off that conversation.  It's nice to meet people, you know, in person after that.  JENN MCCOY:  And there's a lot of creative things that our streamers have done with Mixplay, all the way from the visual or audio effects that the audience can implement, but we've had people use Mixplay for physical environmental things, too.  So, for example, having the audience change the lighting in the studio from red to blue to green, we have one gentleman, Sorry About Your Cats, who lets the audience actually control mini robots using the Mixplay technology.  So during his stream, the audience is actually controlling robots in the background on the stream.  We've had people use it to control different camera angles.  The whole idea is it's a tool set that the content creators can use to create the experience that fits with them, whether that's digital, physical, or actually getting into the game play itself. JASON HOWARD:  So the whole concept of sparks on the Mixer platform, right?  Where the longer you view, you start gaining Sparks.  And then that's kind of like the avenue to some of these interactions and clicking some of the buttons and things like that.  Have you all thought about monetizing that at all?  CHAD GIBSON:  Absolutely.  (Laughter.)  I think the thing that we're really motivated by is allowing viewers to support the creators and streamers, really supporting patronage, supporting ways for communities to get built.  And for many of these streamers, it's their full-time job.  And we love lots of investments in the area that allow the viewers to better support the communities they join, and so Sparks is a great potential area for that to go further.  JENN MCCOY:  One of the other programs that we implemented pretty recently is this idea of Mixer direct purchase, where a streamer can actually showcase a game or DLC that they're playing, and let the community purchase directly through their channel, and then the streamer gets a portion of that revenue.  So it's a way that the viewing audience, again, can support the streamer with their purchase, but then also they get to benefit from the streamer doing a great job of showcasing, hey, here's this new game or new DLC that you should check out. JASON HOWARD:  Sounds like this whole platform has gone from, "Hey, I just want to see if other people want to watch me playing a video game," to an entire new world that people are stepping into now. So I've got to ask you, and this is going to be a tough question, so get ready for it.  Obviously, there's a huge user base, and Mixer is one of several platforms out there.  It's one of the most recognizable, which is something I'm very happy for being, you know, a Microsoft employee and whatnot.  JENN MCCOY:  Oh, you're saying the branding is really good?  JASON HOWARD:  You know, you might be doing your job well.  (Laughter.)  So here's the tough question:  What, in your mind, sets Mixer apart from some of the other well-known platforms, such as Twitch? JENN MCCOY:  Yeah.  There's actually two big things to me that are really differentiators of Mixer versus any other platform.  The first is our community.  We are just super fortunate to have an amazing community that's very welcoming, very positive, very self-reinforcing.  If you have someone that shows up in a channel that's maybe being a little troll-like, it's amazing to see the community react to that and just be, like, "Hey, that's not what we're about.  That's not what we do."  Similarly, if you have someone new that's saying, "Hey, I'm a Mixer for the first time," the community really rallies around and says, "Oh, hey, let me show you how you do this," or, "Welcome, you know, so and so, to Mixer," giving them tips, that type of thing.  And it's something Matt and James really invested in when they first founded the company, and it's continued and has pervaded the entire sense of Mixer since then.  So community is, by far, the biggest differentiator for us. And then the second is this idea of really blurring the lines between watching and playing.  And so the investments that we've made with Mixplay, the investments that we've made with Hype Zone and some of the other technologies to bring viewers into the experience in a way that you just don't see on any other platform.  CHAD GIBSON:  I agree with Jenn.  The community is probably the number-one difference between us and other platforms.  It's positive on so many dimensions, and it's really interesting and fun talking to creators who have streamed on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitch and hearing about their first-week experience and, like, they knew that community was a big part of Mixer, but then when they feel it and they experience it themselves, it's really fun to hear about those positive experiences.  So I totally agree that that is one of the biggest differences. The other one, it's probably a combination of a lot of the things we're trying to do differently.  A lot of our features have been super unique, like co-streaming was a very unique feature.  The fact that we're trying to deliver video in such a very different way with FTL and our Mixplay experiences and Hype Zone, like, we really want to create new and unique and very interesting things.  And I think that desire to explore new territory also resonates really positively with a lot of people.  JASON HOWARD:  So I'm going to level-up for just a moment.  Obviously, you know, with E3 being wrapped up at this point, there was a lot of announcements that came out of it between changes that are coming to consoles and platforms, a bunch of the games.  Looking specifically at the trends in game streaming, obviously both of you are very well connected into this, is there anything besides what you're working on that you see kind of coming forward in the next month, six months, a year, whether it came from E3 or if it's just a general trend that you're seeing developing in this particular space?  JENN MCCOY:  The thing that stands out to me the most is the agility of game developers and how they're using live streaming to really get real-time reactions from their players, from their audience, and use that to adjust the game.  The best example I can give you is Fortnight, right?  I think Epic has just done a tremendous job of really thinking about Fortnight as a service and being very on it just with feedback from the community, making new experiences, new content, and that I think is where we just are going to see more and more games going, of being super agile and super two-way experiences between the game developer and the community.  CHAD GIBSON:  I agree with that.  One thing I would add is prior to the Beam acquisition, we gained our opinion of the game video industry, and how we thought it was going to grow and where we thought there were opportunities.  And this E3, to me, made me believe that our previous estimates were maybe a little conservative. I think the game video industry, the way it's expanding in so many different ways, across the world in different countries, it's expanding in new capabilities, we're seeing games just leverage it more and more and more where I think there's so much more to come.  And so I think the growth of the overall game video segment or industry is growing faster than we certainly thought two years ago.  That was made apparent to me this last E3.  JASON HOWARD:  That's kind of a good problem to have. CHAD GIBSON:  It is.  It is.  And it's a great problem to have.  I mean, it's a huge market, and it's growing, and we can achieve all of our goals by just doing our thing.  JASON HOWARD:  Somebody can throw out something enticing to get an old dog like me back into playing video games.  Hey, somebody's doing something right.  CHAD GIBSON:  Yeah.  JASON HOWARD:  All right, one more really fun question for you before we wrap up here:  Are there any hints about what's coming with Mixer itself that you can talk about?  This is always a fun question, I love asking it. JENN MCCOY:  Yeah.  I'd say a couple things.  I mean, one, actually, that UI refresh that will be coming to the whole Mixer user base later this summer, that's a big investment for us.  We're super excited about that.  I do think you will continue to see us adding and innovating to our Hype Zone experiences.  We added the Realm Royale experience this week as a partnership with Hi-Rez Studios, and that's been a lot of fun.  And we will continue to think about, like, how do we optimize and grow that Hype Zone experience?  What else?  CHAD GIBSON:  Yeah.  We've been doing some interesting things to really try to present e-sports in a new ways.  So with SMITE, we've been presenting that with some of our co-stream features, and we just deployed I think at the one-year anniversary, a new interactive dashboard that shows real-time stats from the SMITE e-sports league.  And so the general area of e-sports, we also think is an area where we can change it a lot.  When I go to an e-sports event and I see the energy of the crowd and the people cheering, and then when I watch it online, there's a lot of energy we can bring to the Mixer experience.  We're doing a lot more of that in the years to come.  And generally, with Mixplay, you're going to see in the coming months a much larger volume of unique Mixplay experiences.  And, frankly, knowing about the portfolio of what's coming, it's super diverse.  That's probably the most exciting part about it.  A bunch of developers doing some really, really interesting, creative things, which I think is going to surprise a lot of people.  JASON HOWARD:  So a little bit of teasing without too much detail, but hey, you know?  I'll take what I can get here.  So, obviously, Mixer being, getting started seems pretty simple, right?  Webcam and a mic and game on whatever platform you decide to stream on.  It's pretty easy to connect those dots, there's lots of helps and how-to online.  The entire community is there to do some support.  Anything that I'm missing here?  CHAD GIBSON:  Well, for people who want to stream, we made it really easy with Windows with the Game Bar.  So Windows Game Bar, you can stream to Mixer pretty easily.  And in Xbox, it's all integrated into the guide to stream to Mixer.  So for users who want to start sharing and streaming, those are phenomenal ways to get going. And then on your phone, you can download Mixer Create and start streaming on your phone as well.  And we have viewing experiences on Xbox One, we have a great Web experience for the desktop, we have mobile viewing experiences on iOS Android, so we're going to continue to offer great viewing and streaming experiences across all of those devices.  JASON HOWARD:  Beautiful.  Any parting wisdom for our listeners?  JENN MCCOY:  I would just encourage everyone, you know, whether you want to just share your game play with friends or if you actually want to take that first step towards building an audience, try it out, have fun with it because so much about streaming on Mixer is bringing your personality to the table, and we're obviously very focused on gaming, but we have streamers that do all kinds of different creative things.  We have folks that are artists, we have musicians, we have people that do cooking shows.  So it really is just an amazing platform to show your creativity and to connect with people who care about what you care about.  CHAD GIBSON:  One thing I would suggest is when you start viewing a Mixer stream for the first time, you know, find a game you play or browse around a stream that's interesting to you and just say hi.  I think that first moment where you say hi and you know the streamer will probably say something back and you start just joining a community and engaging, that's where you experience the really, really fun part of Mixer.  JASON HOWARD:  Awesome.  Well, Jenn, Chad, it's been fantastic chatting with you.  Thank you both so much both for being here to speak with us today, but as well as, you know, the work you do day in and day out to help make this platform the success it's become.  And I say that both as a viewer of Mixer itself as well as a user of the platform.  So big thanks to you and the rest of the team that supports you guys day in and day out. JENN MCCOY:  Thanks for having us. CHAD GIBSON:  Thank you.  JENN MCCOY:  It's been a lot of fun, and we're excited to just continue to grow the service.  CHAD GIBSON:  Yeah, thank you.  JASON HOWARD:  The Windows Insider team, including yours truly, was on the ground at E3 and hosted a special happy hour for our Insiders.  We caught up with a few Insiders over drinks, and got their impression on what's exciting about the future of gaming.  Here's Tyler Ahn at E3.  TYLER AHN:  The Insider team had a blast at E3 this year.  We caught up with some Insiders at our awesome E3 happy hour to get their take-aways from this epic event.  Hi! how are you?  Please introduce yourself and a sentence on what you're working on. HOLLY AMOS:  My name's Holly Amos, and I'm an assistant producer on the new online Star Trek CCG, Star Trek Adversaries.  TYLER AHN:  Fantastic.  We're so happy to have you here.  What gets you most excited when you think about the future of gaming?  HOLLY AMOS:  I've actually noticed that there's a lot of storytelling, and it's like 50 percent almost like you're in a movie, and then 50 percent actual game play.  And I think based on the fact that I grew up with stuff like, you know, Super Mario Bros, where you were just trying to beat a level, the story aspect is really interesting to me.  TYLER AHN:  Hi, who are you?  Please introduce yourself and a sentence on what you're working on.  MAX DINK:  Oh, hi.  My name is Max Dink.  Currently, I am working on a custom metal wallet for card holding.  I'm an engineer, so that's what I do.  TYLER AHN:  So why did you want to join us at E3 this year? MAX DINK:  Well, I wanted to be part of, you know, the convention, you know, Windows Insider Program is nice, they brought me out here.  And you know, get to see new games.  New games.  A lot of new games.  (Laughter.) TYLER AHN:  There were a lot of new games today.  So when you think about the future of gaming, what gets you most excited?  MAX DINK:  Definitely VR because almost everyone is having VR now.  And definitely AI for computers and just you know when you play a game, AI is better than just pre-programmed actions.  TYLER AHN:  Hello, who are you?  Please introduce yourself and tell me what you're working on.  JENNIFER KING:  Hi, my name is Jennifer King, and currently I'm working toward my software engineering degree, master's degree, at Cal State Fullerton.  TYLER AHN:  Fantastic, congratulations.  JENNIFER KING:  Thank you.  TYLER AHN:  So what brings you to E3 this year?  JENNIFER KING:  We were invited by Windows Insider and this is our third consecutive year now, thank you so much for bringing us out here.  TYLER AHN:  What gets you most excited when you think about the future of gaming?  JENNIFER KING:  I think the community is definitely something that gets me really excited about gaming because you can interact with other people and you can play games with other people, connect with them, and then even meet them in real life.  TYLER AHN:  Hello, hello!  Who are you?  Please introduce yourself and tell me what you're working on.  SONYA SATURDAY:  My name is Sonya Saturday, I'm a cartoonist.  I am currently working on a coloring book called Socially Conscious White Ladies.  And my website is TYLER AHN:  Fantastic.  So what brings you to E3 this year? SONYA SATURDAY:  The Windows Insider Program brought me to E3 this year, and I'm very appreciative of everything they're doing.  TYLER AHN:  What gets you most excited when you think about the future of gaming?  SONYA SATURDAY:  I'm really excited about the future of storytelling potential with games, about making something more realistic and interactive, something that's more like film and true life.  TYLER AHN:  Hi!  Who are you?  Please introduce yourself and tell me what you're working on. HARMONY VAN LUVEN:  Hey, Tyler.  My name's Harmony Van Luven.  I'm the creative director of Frolic Games.  And right now, I'm working on learning improving, and currently focusing on a website that sells video game accessories to women. TYLER AHN:  Awesome, I like that niche.  So what brings you to E3 this year? HARMONY VAN LUVEN:  I was invited by the Windows Insider Program.  I'm looking forward to just talking with everybody and learning all of the amazing things that are new and I guess released -- and Halo 6 or the next Halo.  TYLER AHN:  What gets you most excited when you think about the future of gaming? HARMONY VAN LUVEN:  We're finally at that crossroads where -- we're at that crossroads where graphics are becoming hyper-realistic, so much so that now, finally, the suspension of disbelief can be -- it feels like you're actually there and it's you.  TYLER AHN:  Games becoming real.  Super real.  HARMONY VAN LUVEN:  Super real.  JASON HOWARD:  That's it for Episode 16.  Get next month's episode automatically by subscribing on your favorite podcast app.  You can also find all of our awesome past episodes on the Windows Insider website at And if you're not an Insider yet, it's easy and free to sign up and join the global community shaping the future of Windows.  Thanks for listening to the Windows Insider Podcast, I'm your host, Jason Howard.  Until next time.  NARRATION:  The Windows Insider Podcast is produced by Microsoft Production Studios and the Windows Insider team, which includes Tyler Ahn -- that's me -- Michelle Paison, Ande Harwood, and Kristie Wang. Visit us on the Web at  Follow @windowsinsider on Instagram and Twitter. Support for the Windows Insider Podcast comes from Microsoft -- empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Please subscribe, rate, and review this podcast wherever you get your podcasts. Moral support and inspiration come from Ninja Cat, reminding us to have fun and pursue our passions. Thanks, as always, to our program's co-founders, Dona Sarkar and Jeremiah Marble. Join us next month for another fascinating discussion from the perspectives of Windows Insiders. END
6/27/201844 minutes, 2 seconds
Episode Artwork

Updates and Features and Engineers—Oh, My!

With the release of the Windows April 2018 Update, we chat with Microsoft engineers about three exciting features that Insiders voted as part of their top 10 favorites. Tom Alphin joins Jason Howard in the studio to talk about Timeline, a new, chronological way to keep track of all your stuff, including across multiple devices. Jake Cohen chats about Eye Control, an accessibility feature that Microsoft developed with the help of Steve Gleason, an NFL football player for the New Orleans Saints who is living with ALS. And Samuele Dassatti, an 18-year-old Windows Insider from Italy, shares his experience developing his app, Fluenty,  using Fluent Design. Then, Dona Sarkar and Jason have a candid discussion about what it's really like to be a Microsoft engineer and evolve an operating system used by more than a billion users worldwide.    Episode Transcription JASON HOWARD:  Welcome to the Windows Insider Podcast.  I'm your host, Jason Howard, and this is Episode 15: Updates and Features and Engineers—Oh, My! This episode, we'll chat with Microsoft engineers about Timeline and Eye Control, as well as a Windows Insider about Fluent design.  All three of these features were voted by insiders as part of the top ten features within this update.  Later, Dona Sarkar and I will chat about what it's really like to evolve an operating system used by more than a billion users worldwide.  JASON HOWARD:  To talk about the new Timeline feature today, we have Tom Alphin.  Welcome to the show. TOM ALPHIN:  Thank you.  JASON HOWARD:  So could you please introduce yourself to the audience and tell them what you do here at Microsoft? TOM ALPHIN:  Sure.  So I'm Tom Alphin.  I've been working at Microsoft for about 15, 16 years.  Been on the Windows team for most of that, and most recently, as you introduced me, I've been working on the Timeline feature.  JASON HOWARD:  Awesome. TOM ALPHIN:  Yeah.  JASON HOWARD:  And for those who may not be familiar, or may not have watched some of the webcasts we do, back in December of 2017, we did a little demo -- what was it?  About a week early before the Timeline feature showed up Insider builds? TOM ALPHIN:  Yeah.  JASON HOWARD:  Actually had you on the air, got to do some demos -- they worked.  TOM ALPHIN:  Yeah.  Yeah. JASON HOWARD:  Which was awesome.  (Laughter.)  Doing live demos is always a risky proposition.  So for those that are listening to the show and may not be familiar with the functionality, since it's just now like properly releasing to the public, can you give us a bit of a rundown on what Timeline is? TOM ALPHIN:  Yeah.  Before talking about Timeline itself, it's worth speaking for a moment about what problem we think Timeline solves.  We identified some years ago that people were struggling to find their stuff.  It used to be that I knew where all my stuff was.  It was on my one laptop on the hard drive.  And now with a world of cloud services, OneDrive and Dropbox or whatever your favorite storage solution is, it's kind of hard to find stuff sometimes.  Or it might even be on the C drive of a different laptop.  And it's like, "Where's my stuff?"  And so rather than just trying to make sure even puts all their stuff in one place, which of course we're investing in making OneDrive a great place for your stuff, we also recognized, you know, people are going to use a mix of things.  So why don't we give them one view of all their stuff?  And it's organized, actually, chronologically, not by physical storage location.  And that was sort of the conceptual journey that we went through to get to the idea, "Hey, maybe we just give people a timeline of their stuff."  And that's the gist of it.  When we ended up, ultimately, shipping today is the ability for users to click on the task view button that's been part of Windows for a while now.  Instead of just seeing what's running, you can actually go back in time.  And you're seeing your chronological view of stuff you've done in the past.  And from that chronological view, you can click on something because you want to get back to that document or that website, and it will just launch. And we've made it really easy.  We're hoping people habituate to that as an alternate way to go back and find things they care about.  JASON HOWARD:  And it seems like the name was pretty easy to stumble upon, it kind of named itself.  (Laughter.) TOM ALPHIN:  Yeah.  I mean, the name of the feature kind of just is the essence of the feature.  Although, we use that name as a bit of a guiding principle.  We were, like, when we started thinking about search results in the timeline experience, we could have organized the search results in any manner of ways.  We could have organized them by application, we could have organized them by some sort of relevance algorithm.  We chose, ultimately, to organize them chronologically because we're, like, "This is Timeline, we've got to keep things organized in a predictable, consistent way."  And that bounding concept is chronology.  So reverse chronology, center of Timeline. JASON HOWARD:  Yeah.  And, I mean, if you've got files in five different locations and you're struggling to remember where it was to begin with, right?  Because if you knew where it was, you could possibly just go and open the file and be done with it.  Having remembered when the last time you worked on it, for some people, myself included here, it's probably a little bit easier to do it that way as opposed to, okay, which PC was this on or which, you know, cloud-based service did I upload this to at what point in time?  And all of a sudden, it's like, oh, yeah, I worked on this on this other machine, it was two days ago, cool.  Zip back in time, and there you go. TOM ALPHIN:  Yeah.  So, basically, we're giving people one more way to find their stuff.  You can already find it if you know where it is, go find it in File Explorer, the appropriate app.  You can already find it in search if you know exactly what it's called.  And now we've got a way you can find it if you know when it happened. JASON HOWARD:  That's awesome.  TOM ALPHIN:  Yeah.  JASON HOWARD:  So it sounds like that was a bit of the core of why the team was excited to create the feature.  TOM ALPHIN:  Yeah.  JASON HOWARD:  So as an end user, right, it sounds like they have this third kind of pillar of a way to go and find files.  But besides just finding something that they had been working on, right?  Like, how does this change the game for users?  Like, how does this improve their workflow and make lives easier for them?  TOM ALPHIN:  Well, we know that people use computers in a lot of different ways.  Some people will do simple tasks, just get something done, move on.  Other people use it for more entertainment or shopping or any of these other scenarios.  And every one of those scenarios is going to have a different use case or use pattern.  And for each one of them, they might use something like timeline differently.  If you're using it for shopping, it's great to be able to go find that thing you were looking at a couple days ago because maybe you saw something you really liked, but you weren't quite ready to pull the trigger and buy it.  You closed the Web browser, it's pretty hard to find it again.  And now, you know, you just scroll back in Timeline, you can find it, get back to it, make a purchase decision.  If you're doing a more complicated task, maybe you're working on writing a book or trying to research a trip or any of these tasks that take many days and many, many documents and objects it's going to take you a while to build out that state.  And then you've got all the information at your fingertips, and then you have to switch to something else, getting back to that stuff is challenging and Timeline is one way we think people can do it more easily because it's all there. And since you're going back in time to two days ago when you were looking at the trip planning, you'll see in that two days ago area, other things that you're doing at the same time, it's very likely those are the same things you want to bring back as well.  JASON HOWARD:  Yeah.  So instead of finding just the one thing, you may have forgotten about something else that's important and relevant that hadn't kind of clicked back into your memory.  And, you know, when you go back and find this, it'll be sitting there waiting for you as well.  And you're, like, "Oh, my goodness, I completely forgot about that." TOM ALPHIN:  Yeah.  Exactly.  JASON HOWARD:  So it sounds like everybody's going to get this kind of "one history to rule them all" type, you know, experience, right?  In a recent survey, Windows Insiders chose Timeline as one of their top ten features that is now going to be available in the April 2018 Update.  Obviously, it's now out in public.  From your perspective, are there any users, individually or in particular, that you can think about that are going to be super excited about this feature? TOM ALPHIN:  I think the feature is valuable if you have exactly one Windows PC, but it's going to be significantly more popular amongst people that have either multiple PCs or multiple PCs and a phone where they're choosing to use Office or Edge because then you can actually pick up the activities across the device boundary.  And that's really powerful because once you find that cool website on your phone, trying to get it off of your phone is a pain.  And if I could just change nothing about how I use my phone, but when I sit down at my PC, I know with confidence if I go into my timeline it's going to show me the stuff that I was viewing on my phone earlier today or yesterday. That is a bit of a game-changer because I don't have to change how I use my phone.  All I have to do is have confidence I can get back to that stuff easy in the future.  JASON HOWARD:  Well, even when you look at individual applications, right, you look at Edge, and it can port your favorites across different devices, right, correlated to your Microsoft account.  And there are other Web browsers out there that will port your history and things like that so that, you know, you're on PC A, you search something, gets correlated.  But, again, that's a separate profile that you have to have connected in the background, things like that.  Rather than having two or three different profiles, or five different profiles across all these different applications, at least in this type of scenario where you have your one Microsoft Account that's connected to these multiple machines, you don't have to worry about remembering five accounts and five logins and tying all of that together.  You get to kind of have this one simplified, seamless experience where, hey, this is the same login I have across multiple machines.  And guess what?  All of this just happens seamlessly in the background and the user experience seems like it's pretty smooth.  TOM ALPHIN:  That's right, yeah.  Because your activities are roaming between your devices based on your Microsoft Account, so long as you use the same Microsoft Account on both of the devices, you'll have the same Timeline.  Actually, that's a good segue to another capability that's tied up in Timeline is if I go from my first PC, where I do have a particular application installed, to a second PC where I don't have that application installed, we will actually help you when you click on that activity from that app, get that app installed on that second computer and we're really bridging the gap for the user so they can really get right back exactly into the app and content that they want on a device that maybe they don't use as often or maybe that device is new to their ecosystem.  And we're just helping bridge the gap there. We really think this will help the multi-device user a ton, and again, that phone scenario is super cool.  I can get back to that Word document I was reading on the go super easily on my PC, get back to that website.  It's all really nicely integrated, and we think that it will continue to grow as people habituate to this and as developers embrace the platform that Timeline's built on, you'll see more and more high-quality activity cards in Timeline coming from the various apps you love. JASON HOWARD:  So, obviously, this is available on Windows 10 across, you know, all the PCs that, obviously, have taken this newest update, right?  So the Windows 10 April 2018 Update, you need to have that installed kind of as the baseline, and that's when the feature will show you.  So you mentioned mobile OS's.  What mobile platforms is this available on currently? TOM ALPHIN:  Yeah.  So if you have Edge on your iPhone or your Android device or your Office suite on those platforms, those will be sources that activities can get created back to appear on your PC.  And it requires a new version of Edge which either is out or is about to be out for that to work properly, but Office is already working today.  JASON HOWARD:  Awesome.  Future plans, right?  I don't want you to give away the secret sauce, right?  I love asking this question because anybody I ever talk to and ask them, "Hey, what are you doing next?"  You know, there's that mixture of, "I can talk about some of it, I can't talk about some of it."  Any cats you want to let out of the bag? TOM ALPHIN:  Well, I actually can talk about something, because we've already been talking about it for a while.  At Build last year, almost exactly a year ago, because we're getting ready for the next Build Conference, we made it very clear to app developers that if you write these activities into the roam APIs, they will make it into your timeline on all your PCs.  And that's a big deal.  What we're excited about is that we really think these activities can showcase elsewhere in Windows.  One example that is already part of the product as well is if you switch between devices and there's a strong signal that that activity you were working on PC A is something you'd want to resume on a second PC, we could offer a little notification for you, "Hey, would you like to keep working on this?"  And we think that's the beginning of a whole host of ways to infuse the Windows operating system with exactly what you need next.  And I can't speak to exactly what we're going to do with that, because we're still kind of inventing the future, right?  But we know that these activities that the Microsoft first-party applications and our third-party partners are creating, that those activities are sort of at the center of a new type of productivity in Windows. JASON HOWARD:  I know we've covered a lot here, but anything else?  Any other tips or tricks that you want to share about Timeline?  Obviously, people need to get the newest build and get it installed so they can use it.  TOM ALPHIN:  Yeah.  I mean, the main point that people encounter when they play with it for the first time is that we do want to make sure people's privacy are respected in this experience.  So you will see when you use it for the first time, we do ask you if you'd like the activities from this PC to go back up to the cloud so they can get to your other devices.  We give you a couple days of Timeline, and then below that, there's an experience built into Timeline to actually opt in and move those activities back up to the cloud.  So that's something people will discover when they play with it for the first time a little bit.  Another thing is I really encourage people to play with the search capability as well because I kind of find the combination of even an imperfect search term, I happen to love LEGO projects, so I might search for LEGO.  It gives me a filtered Timeline, which is all of my stuff that has that keyword in it.  So if I know about when it was, but I'm not sure exactly which day, I can use the combination of search, which filters the view, plus that sort of temporal timeline view to find exactly what I'm looking for.  So people should play with that as well.  They don't feel like they need to type enough search terms to find exactly that one thing.  Just get it down to a small enough set that you can quickly scan and find what you're looking for.  I think that's probably a good tease for people.  Really, we want to hear from people, too.  Because, you know, this is the beginning of a story.  JASON HOWARD:  And, obviously there's, you know, the Feedback Hub to drive feedback for Insiders.  If you're on a retail build, you know you can provide feedback and Feedback Hub as well.  TOM ALPHIN:  Yes.  And we've gotten great feedback from the Insiders watching the initial response to it when we went out end of last year and seeing what people had to share and trying with the little time we had to respond in some small ways has been really awesome.  And not having that opportunity would have made for a less polished product. JASON HOWARD:  Well, Tom, thank you so much for stopping by the studio today.  TOM ALPHIN:  Absolutely.  JASON HOWARD:  It's been great talking to you.  TOM ALPHIN:  Thank you very much, cheers.  JASON HOWARD:  Cheers, man.    JASON HOWARD:  We chat with our next Microsoft engineer about Eye Control, one of several accessibility features that the Windows team has really been investing in over the last few years.  Jake, could you introduce yourself to our listeners?  JAKE COHEN:  Absolutely.  My name is Jake Cohen, a program manager on the Windows Interaction Platform team.  And I was fortunate enough to work on Eye Control the past few years and I'm really excited to talk about it.  JASON HOWARD:  Awesome.  Real quick, for those who may not know, can you tell us a little bit about what the Windows Interaction Platform team does?  JAKE COHEN:  Yeah.  So we work on providing support for all input device types on Windows, both in the operating system as well as public APIs for developers.  We provide support for mouse and keyboard, touch, pen, precision touchpad, now eye tracking, the dial, and more. JASON HOWARD:  That's quite the list.  And it seems like there's a few important things that users interact with Windows through.  (Laughter.) JAKE COHEN:  That's right.  JASON HOWARD:  So before we get into the details of Eye Control, could you tell us a bit about accessibility in general and how Windows is prioritizing accessibility features as it evolves? JAKE COHEN:  Absolutely.  I think it really comes down to Microsoft's mission statement that Satya has defined for us, and that we've been really working towards.  And it's all about empowering every person and organization on the planet to achieve more.  So accessibility has been super important for us for the past 20-plus years.  We've been working hard in the past few years to really aspire towards our mission statement, and when we think about accessibility, it's about empowering every person of every level of ability.  And we've been taking a really focused approach to continue improving our products to fill the gaps and help people use their PCs and use Windows to improve their lives and do the things they are passionate about.  JASON HOWARD:  So, speaking about Eye Control, can you tell us, you know, a little bit more about it?  Like, walk us through how it works and what it's like using the feature.  JAKE COHEN:  Yeah.  So Eye Control is a product, it's built into Windows, and it allows customers to control their PC using only their eyes and a compatible eye-tracking device.  So it's built leveraging eye-tracking technology, and it provides access to control a mouse, a keyboard, and a text-to-speech experience to communicate with friends and family, all with just your eyes. JASON HOWARD:  Wow.  So is there some sort of a camera that the user looks into?  Or is it just like kind of reading where a person's eyes are gazing across like a pre-defined screen area?  JAKE COHEN:  We work with eye-tracking hardware that you can connect to your PC, and some devices have them integrated.  Two of our hardware partners that support Windows is Tobii and now EyeTech, which is new for the April 2018 release.  What you do is you connect that device, and this uses infrared lighting and cameras to basically detect where your eyes are looking relative to the screen to allow you to interact with your PC.  And Windows takes that information and allows you to, say, control a mouse or keyboard with where you're looking on the screen. JASON HOWARD:  So are there, say, like icons on the screen?  Like, if you were trying to switch between -- what would be, like, keyboard input versus using a mouse to drag and drop and things like that?  Are there, like, icons that you would look at and almost virtually eye-click them somehow? JAKE COHEN:  Exactly.  Yes.  So Eye Control starts with a launch pad, which is UI that's always present on the screen.  And when you dwell your eyes on an icon, which is the act of fixating your eyes somewhere on the screen and waiting, it'll activate a click.  So it's basically a press and hold with your eyes.  And you have access on the launch pad to the mouse, to the keyboard, to text-to-speech, and now in the April 2018 release, many more options to quick access to start, task view, device calibration, settings, and more.  And this is really your launching point to get to the action you want.  So if you want to, say, use the mouse to scroll a Web page, you first look at the scroll button basically saying, "Hey, I want to scroll."  And once you're in that mode, you can fixate your eyes somewhere on the screen and then use the arrows that are provided to scroll up and down using your eyes.  So lets you browse the Web or scroll an app. JASON HOWARD:  Something interesting for me, the difference between a left mouse click versus a right mouse click?  JAKE COHEN:  Yes.  For that, we do have individual UI for a left-click action and a right-click action on the launch pad.  We also have one option for precise mouse interactions that let you position your eyes on the screen, fine tune the position of the mouse, and then select what action you want with that mouse, which could be right click, left click, or double left click.  JASON HOWARD:  That was going to be my next question -- what happens between a single click versus the double click? JAKE COHEN:  Yeah.  And you raise a really good point, too.  There are a wide range of interactions that are supported on Windows that people do every single day.  And it's quite a complex problem to provide support for that with just your eyes.  You know, we're just getting started with providing support for left click, right click, double left click for scrolling, for the keyboard, but there's more interactions that we need to work towards as well like zooming and drag and drop.  And these are really fun, complex problems to work towards to let someone do all of these things with just their eyes. JASON HOWARD:  So what's the story behind how Microsoft went about developing this eye-tracking feature? JAKE COHEN:  It's a very exciting story.  It started several years in the 2014 Microsoft company-wide hackathon, and started with Steve Gleason, NFL football player, New Orleans Saints, that is living with ALS.  Sent an e-mail and challenged Microsoft to help improve his life with technology.  A famous quote he has is, "Before we have a cure for ALS, technology is that cure."  And it brings up a really good point.  You know, as technology evolves and as technology can do more and more for people, it helps fill the gap and empower people to do things they couldn't do before.  And with that e-mail, there was a team got together, built a hackathon project on eye tracking to let Steve drive his wheelchair. JASON HOWARD:  Oh, wow.  JAKE COHEN:  He can drive his wheelchair with his son around his house, which is incredible.  And from there a team at Microsoft Research has dedicated their time the last three years plus to building technology to help improve people's lives that are living with mobility impairments, both with eye tracking, as well as those who are blind.  And they've evolved and grown their technical expertise and have learned a ton and are working with people living with ALS in the community to learn more and work with them and help them individually.  And in this past year, we found a point which there was a great opportunity to bring all of this learning and opportunity right into Windows, so more customers around the world can leverage this technology in an easier way to help let them control their PC and do what they want to do.  JASON HOWARD:  Just thinking, you know, you buy a new computer and you're booting up.  Previously, that out-of-box experience was very -- there were no audio cues or anything. JAKE COHEN:  Right.  JASON HOWARD:  You had to be able to see what was on the screen.  JAKE COHEN:  Yeah.  JASON HOWARD:  It required somebody of full abilities to walk through the process, really.  And now, Cortana's integrated where she actually speaks to people. JAKE COHEN:  That's great.  JASON HOWARD:  Right?  There's high-contrast mode included as part of the out-of-box experience.  It's like, piece by piece, we keep bringing Windows closer and closer to those who may need some additional assistance and going through what are just some of the common tasks in using the operating system.  JAKE COHEN:  It's a great evolution, I'd say, of Windows and what we are doing to fulfill our mission statement and to fill the gap and to help people with variations of ability better use their PC, use their devices, have an impact on their lives.  And it's a really good trajectory we're on to really be customer focused and focused on the end to end solution, not tools that you can plug in and use in certain scenarios, but what is the from beginning to end, I get my PC, I'm started, I'm booted up.  I can now use it on my day-to-day, I can use it at work and transition to future devices and updates as well. JASON HOWARD:  So knowing that we kind of have a habit around here of starting a good thing and then opening up a bit more broadly so that additional third parties and users externally can kind of plug in and take it to the next level, what is the future past what we've done so far?  Do you have any plans for, like, APIs or anything that you're going to do to try to enable developers to kind of build on top of what you all have already put together?  JAKE COHEN:  Absolutely.  This is one of the things I'm most excited about for this next release of Windows.  In the Fall Creators Update, we released Eye Control in box for the first time.  In the April 2018 Update, we have really great improvements to Eye Control, but the next step we're taking as well is releasing public developer APIs and open-source libraries that was used exactly the same in Windows to build Eye Control to allow third-party developers to build apps and experiences that can leverage eye tracking.  And imagine all of the gaps that third-party developers can fill for customers who are living with mobility impairments to use in their day-to-day life.  You know, I think it comes down to Microsoft's core roots.  We can't fulfill this mission statement alone to empower everyone, we have to empower everyone to empower other people and to build a platform.  We're a platform company, and this what I'm most excited for next is to see what developers can think of and come up with and build and make an impact.  JASON HOWARD:  Seems to be one of the things that we as a company are good at is we put together a solid foundation that has the right hooks and integrations into the OS, and then open the door and see what other people can come up with. JAKE COHEN:  Yeah.  So these APIs just came out and we're showing them off at Build and we're excited to see what comes next.  JASON HOWARD:  What are some of the next things that you think are super important that you and the rest of your team will be working on?   JAKE COHEN:  We take a very customer-centric approach, especially for Eye Control, since it is designed for a targeted set of audience and people who really need it. We've been working closely with Microsoft Research and people living with ALS in the community, as well as Team Gleason, a nonprofit foundation that helps people who are living with ALS, to collect feedback, to let them use Eye Control and tell us what works great, what's missing, and what's needed next.  And it's really inspiring to get this feedback because we hear people say, "This is amazing technology, this is really helping me."  And also, "This is the next thing I need."  It's about empowering them to do everything they can think of, not just a subset of interactions or abilities.   And that's what's driving the next steps is collecting feedback and addressing the next top things that people want to do in Windows.  JASON HOWARD:  So for you individually, what drove you to become part of the Windows Interaction Platform team?  Like, what landed you here?  JAKE COHEN:  Well, it started with a really strong interest in thinking about how we're evolving the way we interact with devices and technology -- the evolution of the smart phone and touch interactions being such a huge player in how we use these devices, and how that's changing the way we work and live with voice as a key interaction being more predominant today with voice-activated assistants, as well as smart home speakers.  And it's just really exciting to think about how we can push the boundary and make things and PCs more natural and intuitive to use and just make it more smooth throughout your day-to-day life.  And eye tracking is a really exciting space where there's a very natural aspect to where your eyes are looking on the screen and what that intent is and what you're thinking and doing, and can help you if you are only using your eyes, as well as if you're fully able and can use other modalities to do multi-modal interactions. So the interaction space is very, very cool.  JASON HOWARD:  Well, Jake, thank you so much for thinking the time to be here with us today to talk about eye tracking.  No doubt, it's something that has a very long and bright future ahead of it.  Can't wait to see what's coming next.  JAKE COHEN:  Yeah, that's so much.  It's been really fun.    JASON HOWARD:  For our third feature today, we'll be chatting about Fluent design.  Fluent design is a new design language for Windows 10 with guidelines for designs and interactions covering components such as light, depth, motion, material, as well as scale. Fluent design makes applications look great across all types of Windows-powered devices. Speaking on this topic today is Samuele Dassatti, a Windows Insider who developed his own productivity and scheduling app called Fluently, which is now available in the Microsoft store.  Samuele is only 18 years old, and has been coding since he was 13.  He's using the proceeds from this application to pay for university.  Welcome, Samuele, where are you calling from today?  SAMUELE DASSATTI:  I'm from Italy, in the northern region of Italy.  JASON HOWARD:  All right.  So, tell us a little bit about your app.  Can you give the audience a walk-through of what your application does and what prompted you to create it?  SAMUELE DASSATTI:  Well, my app is a digital diary with the support for the Surface Pen.  I decided to create it because in my school, we use a tablet instead of books.  And I needed a way to write on my Surface Pro, my notes as if I were writing on paper.  So I started developing this UWP app, Fluently, and I really liked the Fluent design system, which was presented at Build 2017 so I decided to implement it in my app.  And the fact that the app looked so beautiful made me proud of it and I, ultimately, decided to publish it on the Windows Store in October or so.  And after I published it, I was nominated for the Windows Developer Awards 2018, so it's a great result for me. JASON HOWARD:  Awesome.  So your application basically lets you keep a calendar and notes by handwriting on a Surface with the Surface Pen.  So it seems like it's good for people who like the feeling of paper, but want the flexibility of a digital calendar, it seems like those would be the kind of people that would love your application Fluently.  SAMUELE DASSATTI:  Yeah.  From what I've seen, many of the people that write me usually come from pen and paper, maybe they add a Surface or a similar device with pen support, but they use it not that often, and maybe just for some basic sketching.  But after seeing Fluently and acknowledging how intuitive it was, many of them thank me because I gave them a reason to use their Surface or XPS two-in-one, for example. JASON HOWARD:  Just in talking, right, we heard a little bit about you, that you were self-taught when it comes to coding, and you started when you were 13.  Obviously, you're a bit older now and you're about to start university, so can you tell us a little bit about your plans and, you know, what you're dreaming about for the future?  SAMUELE DASSATTI:  I just got admitted at the University of Trento, near where I live, which I heard is a really good university for computer science.  And I want to study programming there because I believe coding opens many doors in the future because it is required almost everywhere, and I hope that the fact that I have some experience may help me in the university.  JASON HOWARD:  Awesome.  Thank you so much for stopping by the studio today. SAMUELE DASSATTI:  Thank you for the opportunity.    JASON HOWARD:  Ever wonder what it's like to be an engineer on the Windows Insider team and to be part of the massive rush that is evolving the most popular operating system in the world?  Dona Sarkar joins me in the studio to talk about the joys and headaches of engineering. DONA SARKAR:  Hi, Jason.  JASON HOWARD:  Hi, Dona.  DONA SARKAR:  What are you doing?  You're on my side of the booth.  (Laughter.)  JASON HOWARD:  I won that argument, everybody. DONA SARKAR:  He did.  Jason won an argument, everyone.  He's now on my side of the booth.  Therefore, I think we should have our connect on the air, Jason.  JASON HOWARD:  I don't think anybody wants to listen to that.  DONA SARKAR:  Jason, what are three things you could have done better this year?  (Laughter.)  JASON HOWARD:  Well, one thing I did right was standing on this side of the booth.  DONA SARKAR:  That's about it.  Now, this is going to cost you three articles on the website described your day-to-day.  (Laughter.) JASON HOWARD:  I'm making my own job harder here. DONA SARKAR:  Yes, he is.  JASON HOWARD:  I don't like how this is turning out.  DONA SARKAR:  Yes, he is.  All right, so I have some questions for you.  JASON HOWARD:  All right. DONA SARKAR:  You have been "Insidering" for, what?  Four years?  A long time.  JASON HOWARD:  A while. DONA SARKAR:  Right?  Yeah, a long time.  You've been "Insidering" longer than I have, you've been "Insidering" longer than most of the team.  So before I showed up here, you talked about three of the Insider community's favorite features in the new update, and they were all super exciting -- Timeline, Eye Control, Fluent design.  Those are some of my favorites, too, along with all of the stuff around focus assistant, etcetera.  Can you share with everybody, what role did Insiders play in the evolution of these new features?  And how did their feedback make it to the table where decisions are made?  JASON HOWARD:  Well, it's -- I don't want to expand the discussion super far, especially not coming right out of the gate, but it's the same as any other feature that we've introduced along the development of Windows 10.  You know, the development teams come up with this awesome idea of something they want to put in, it shows up in a preview build and everybody freaks out and gets excited and they're like, "Oh, my goodness, what is this new piece of awesomeness that's here?"  And then they're, like, "Okay, well, I want it to work this way or this part's broke, you know, what can we do to change this?  Have you guys thought about this?  Because it currently doesn't do it this way or it doesn't do this at all."  So Insiders will use the feature, they'll send us all the good feedback.  You know, they yell at us on Twitter and all that kind of fun stuff.  You know, that's one of the fun parts of my job.  But, you know, for each of these individual features, along with everything else that's in Windows 10, it's the same usual process.  And I don't mean to make it sound mundane, because it's absolutely awesome, you know, it kind of goes like that.  We introduce a feature, we take in that feedback, and then we see what changes.  It's easy to talk about the Fluent side of things because it's one of the most obvious because it's something that everybody sees.  Like when Fluent showed up in the settings panel, it was one of the things that people were, like, "Oh, my goodness, this changed dramatically."  Because all of a sudden there's this smooth transition of light from, you know, item to item in the panel, and there's this glow around whatever you're highlighted over.  It was a super obvious type thing.  For Eye Control, not everybody uses that feature.  Even though it's super important for those who do. DONA SARKAR:  That's right.  JASON HOWARD:  And then, of course, Timeline.  You know, it having replaced the old Task View, it's a paradigm shift.  You know, when this was announced it was, what, Build last year when they announced it?  DONA SARKAR:  Yeah, that's right.  JASON HOWARD:  The fact that that's available now and, you know, can literally transport you back in time to something you were doing on a different machine on a different day, that's huge.  DONA SARKAR:  Yeah.  JASON HOWARD:  And users talking about some of the bugs that showed up with it, and even now as, you know, we're having this discussion, there's an interesting bug that has shown up late that it's one of the interesting things about how interconnected everything is within Windows.  Because as I'm standing here talking right now, there's a bug being actively worked on by the development teams that, when it triggers, your screen blinks.  DONA SARKAR:  That's right.  I've seen it.  JASON HOWARD:  And it's, like, wait, how is this the fault of Timeline?  And without getting too far into the details of the bug itself, it's related to an empty value being returned to the Timeline feature when it's looking for some of your history.  DONA SARKAR:  Right.  JASON HOWARD:  So something that you were using on one machine that isn't even installed on the machine that you're experiencing the bug on, it's making a call to bring some of that Timeline activity over, and it's receiving this unexpected empty value, and then that ends up translating into the service crashing, which gives you the blink on the screen.  But instead of it crashing once and recovering, because every time it keeps recalling back, it keeps looping in that same experience. DONA SARKAR:  That's right.  JASON HOWARD:  So you just end up with this just blinking screen. DONA SARKAR:  Yes.  JASON HOWARD:  And once every three to five seconds, your screen just blinks and blinks and blinks.  DONA SARKAR:  Yeah.  I've hit that on one of my machines, and that was a fun adventure.  But it reminds me of this bug that I ran into like in Windows 7 where we were not getting the return back from Open Search.  So we were in infinite Open Search loop, and the search box would just open, close, open, close, open, close.  It was amazing.  People were like, "Oh, my God, my machine is haunted."  Yeah, this is pretty awesome.  So we called that the "haunted search box."  It was pretty good.  Okay, so we know Insiders really want us to do better at letting them know when their bugs and feedback is addressed.  Can you share with the audience a little bit about how feedback on preview builds get processed and prioritized?  JASON HOWARD:  Yeah, of course.  I mean, we did a webcast last year on this. DONA SARKAR:  That's right.  JASON HOWARD:  I think it was October where we had some of the devs and some of the PMs from the, you know, from the Feedback Hub team come and talk to this.  But the gist of it is, you know, there's a giant deluge of feedback that continually comes in.  DONA SARKAR:  Petabytes.  JASON HOWARD:  Yeah.  The amount of data is -- DONA SARKAR:  A day, yeah.  JASON HOWARD:  It's pretty insane.  And then when you look at the number of pieces of feedback -- because, you know, all those petabytes are attached as logs and machine info, so we know, you know, hey, is this happening on Surface Books or is it happening on a different brand of laptop?  You know, whatever the scenario may be that's triggering whatever bug or feature that somebody's reporting information on.  So when a team sees all of this, because the feedback comes in based upon how it gets filed.  And so there's a primary category and then a secondary subcategory.  And, you know, each one of these categories is assigned to a team.  And the team will go through and look at the feedback that has come in and they look at, hey, so for this development cycle, we have, you know, three or four or whatever number of core priorities, things we're trying to land, right?  And so whether it's revamping an old feature, creating a new feature, or in some circumstances, you know, if they feel that their product needs some extra special attention they'll be, like, "Hey, we're going to focus on making the quality of our feature really good in this particular release, and then we'll add stuff later."  So all the feedback that comes in, they take a look at how many pieces of feedback have come in, what's been up-voted the most, what's going to have the greatest impact, and they compare all of that with what are the big milestones that we have on our internal roadmap?  DONA SARKAR:  Right.  JASON HOWARD:  And so then it kind of gets shuffled and prioritized and stacked and even with some bugs that come in where it may not have been something that was expected to be on our radar, if there's a big bug that slipped up and it's affecting a lot of people, it's going to get prioritized.  So to go back to Fluent for a moment, there's been a big cry to have Fluent introduced into the Feedback Hub itself for a while.  DONA SARKAR:  Right.  JASON HOWARD:  But one of the big things that Feedback Hub has been as a team that, you know, for that particular application, the team has been working on is in being more robust when it comes to log collection.  DONA SARKAR:  Right.  JASON HOWARD:  So that there's less additional tools that users will have to run and all that kind of thing.  Because if you can streamline the pipeline of the intake process, then all the engineering teams within Microsoft, you can get consolidated in one process, everybody knows where to go for the data.  You're not having to have users install extra apps or run troubleshooters and all this kind of stuff.  DONA SARKAR:  Or go back and forth with the dev six times, like we've had to in the past. JASON HOWARD:  Yeah.  And that's another interesting thing is, you know, a dev can take a piece of feedback and say, "Oh, I need more information," and enable extra log collection so people can resubmit that.  DONA SARKAR:  Which is super cool.  JASON HOWARD:  Yeah.  So, you know, using all those processes together, you know, the teams will determine, "Hey, what is the thing that we should focus on now?"  DONA SARKAR:  I totally agree with that.  One of the things that we've been hearing from Insiders is whether the bug is addressed or not, they just want to know, right?  And I like that.  I love that idea.  And I think so far, we've been really one-to-one with letting Insiders know when their bug is fixed.  Like, you know, we did the project where we popped up the notifications like, "Hey, Insider, your bug is fixed, thank you, it's in this build."  And then we also sent e-mail in case they're not looking at SIFS or have them disabled.  But then we realized that Insiders are not able to see all of the things they may have experienced, but didn't necessarily file or up-vote.  So I am going to do an experiment starting this month on tweeting out the bug fixes that have been impactful that a lot of people up-voted.  So I'm looking at bugs that have, like, 30-plus up-votes and just doing a tweet when it's fixed and in which build, because I think that a lot of Insiders will be, like, "Oh, yeah, I ran into that, I couldn't isolate it or trap it, but I did run into it."  So that should be kind of interesting. I asked the Insiders last week on Twitter if that would be interesting and everyone was like, "Yes, we want to see that."  I said, "Okay, it might be noisy and annoying, but we'll see."  Okay, how do new features get chosen to be developed?  Please tell the Insiders, because they all want to know. JASON HOWARD:  That's fun.  I kind of alluded to a little bit of it in my last response, right?  Where, you know, teams figure out what they want to work on, and they go and work on it.  But it's a little more complicated than that.  As a company, Microsoft has a direction that it's headed in.  And it's the responsibility of all the teams that are working on -- at least in this case within Windows, right, to make sure that their work ladders up to meeting those overall objectives.  Each team, of course, gets some leeway to work on special side projects or things they think are important, but the overall message of, "Hey, these are the things that are important for Microsoft as a company, and these are the features that we want to bring to Windows, these are the goals for the product itself."  Each of the teams, they have a responsibility to ensure that what they're working on drives to the mission that we as a company are pushing forward to. DONA SARKAR:  Right.  JASON HOWARD:  So part of it comes from top-down, which is, hey, somebody makes a decision at the top, you know, an idea that Satya has or somebody in the SLT at that level -- SLT being the senior leadership team.  Somebody comes up with an idea, they get buy-off on it, and then it filters down in the teams that are going to be impacted, right?  Because there's tons of sub teams that make up the whole Windows Engineering organization.  So each of those teams will figure out which pieces of the project do they own, what is it going to take for them to, you know, put their piece of the pie together?  You know, put their piece of the puzzle in there, and then that becomes part of their roadmap, whether it's in the current development cycle, the next one, two out, three out.  And for some of them, especially like if you look in the deployment space, some of the things that they've been working on started back in RS1. DONA SARKAR:  Oh, yeah.  JASON HOWARD:  And even now that we're just kicking off RS5, you know, it's still going and it will be there in 6 and whatever names come beyond and into the future.  There's stuff that they're doing now that is just a -- we'll just call it a multi-year process, because it's not just -- you know, it's not just flipping a switch and all of a sudden, it's there and everything's great.  If it was, hey, you know, development would be a lot easier than it is.  DONA SARKAR:  Absolutely.  Most of our features don't get done in six months and they don't get done in a week or two weeks.  I've seen, for myself, like just working on the HoloLens project, that started in 2008 and didn't release until like 2014.  So it's not small, this Windows development thing.  And even just like, you know, making changes to an app, that is not small because you change one thing, and it may have, you know, like you were saying, these repercussions in all parts of the operating system -- years lasting.  JASON HOWARD:  It brings up an interesting point for me because one of the curiosities that I see sometimes is when somebody says, "Well, I reported this last week, why isn't it fixed?" DONA SARKAR:  Oh, yeah.  JASON HOWARD:  It's tough when you're working in an organization this big sometimes to get attention to the right thing -- at least when you feel it's the right thing.  And it goes to the point we made earlier about a competing priority.  There is shuffling that happens within teams and sometimes it just requires a sizable chunk of the day to be, like, "Look, we're going to impact this many people if we don't fix this." DONA SARKAR:  Exactly.  JASON HOWARD:  Or, "We are impacting this many people by not having this implemented."  DONA SARKAR:  That's right.  JASON HOWARD:  And, again, that's where some of the ideas of what should we do next, that's where some of that stuff comes from.  And that's the suggestions from Insiders, that's suggestions from, you know, enterprises and companies that we work with and that run our products and services.  It really is global input both on the individual scale as well as being on larger scales from those that we partner with.  DONA SARKAR:  A very real example was Creators, where when Surface launched, one of the coolest things it had was inking capability.  And initially, it was like, okay, this works great in OneNote.  And we got so much feedback from Insiders, starting 2014, like, "Hey, we're artists, we're writers, we're illustrators, we work in education, and we feel like there can be more inking in the operating system.  Since you have a device with a pen, let's put more stuff in the operating system for pens."  So the entire year of Creators Update and Fall Creators Update was all based on providing opportunities for those audiences, which I really liked because that was one of the first times we've really looked at consumers, broad consumers, who, you know, people aren't really catering to.  Right?   Not many people are creating technology for people who write, even though that's something everyone in the world does, right, at some point or another.  And I really like that we spent a year working on, you know, these really awesome inking features.  And many enterprises are now saying, "This is awesome, we like this a lot," especially for notetaking and such and such.  And as we translate like my horrible handwriting into auto typing and such.  Okay.  So we love all of our Insiders, but my goodness, you guys can be a little creative sometimes.  Sometimes.  So, Jason, what is the craziest request you've ever received from an Insider?  JASON HOWARD:  Oh, goodness.  (Laughter.)  I've got years' worth of thinking back to do on this one. DONA SARKAR:  Yeah, exactly, because you're engaged in some very exciting conversations sometimes.  JASON HOWARD:  That is true.  One of the things that I can't do that I get asked, and it surprises me how often I get asked this, is:  You're Microsoft, why can't you just remote into my machine and fix it?  DONA SARKAR:  Oh, my.  Okay.  JASON HOWARD:  I'm, like, "Um --" DONA SARKAR:  I'm sure that would go super well. JASON HOWARD:  I do not want to be on your computer. DONA SARKAR:  No.  JASON HOWARD:  Not to mention the legal side of it that I don't want to have to wade through. DONA SARKAR:  No.  JASON HOWARD:  I just don't want to be in people's personal machines, right? DONA SARKAR:  No.  JASON HOWARD:  It sounds funny.  The thing is, oftentimes, the things that people are requesting that I fix aren't really things that I could log in and fix anyway.  Yeah, it's easy to change settings, it's easy to go through and delete some files and clear up disk space and things like that, but those are things that I can guide users through.  And we've got documentation and things like that I can refer them to, right?  I don't need to log in and do that stuff.  But it's, like, "Hey, I'm getting specific error code this that's preventing me from updating this Store app."  I will tell you, there is no magic wand for me to go into your machine and wave and just magically fix that for you, unfortunately.  Do I wish there was?  Oh, absolutely.  Right?  It would make my job a lot easier.  But in the grand scheme of things, that's not really something I can do.  Something else that's super fun is when I get asked to specifically push down an update faster. DONA SARKAR:  Oh, yeah.  JASON HOWARD:  I'm, like, um, I don't know what kind of bandwidth you have. DONA SARKAR:  No.  JASON HOWARD:  I don't know where you're located, but those are like physical hardware property things that I really can't control.  DONA SARKAR:  Uh-uh.  (Negative.) JASON HOWARD:  And it goes to show the difference in -- it's one of the things that I absolutely love about this program, but it can prove interesting at times.  It's the difference in like -- what's the right way to say this?  DONA SARKAR:  Words.  JASON HOWARD:  Yeah, I know, words are difficult sometimes.  How connected a user is into the intricacies of technology.  That's not exactly how I want to say it, but it takes work and it takes time to make things change and make them work the way you want to. DONA SARKAR:  And it's human made.  JASON HOWARD:  Yeah.  And you know there are still physical limitations.  You know, I would love a new update to download to my machine -- like here on campus, I want it to download in two minutes.  It doesn't. DONA SARKAR:  No.  Which has the best connectivity in the world.  JASON HOWARD:  Yeah.  I mean, you know, this is Microsoft's headquarters, of course.  DONA SARKAR:  Yeah.  JASON HOWARD:  But at some point in time, sometimes it's just about setting realistic expectations. DONA SARKAR:  Agree on that.  I once got a request from someone to come to their school in Singapore and yell at the principal to let them install Insider builds on all the machines.  JASON HOWARD:  That actually seems like a laudable goal. DONA SARKAR:  Yeah.  It seemed pretty legit.  I was thinking about it.  Like, this wouldn't be the worst, we could go to Singapore and yell.  We go lots of places and yell, so we can yell in Singapore, that's fine.  We yell, that's fine.  (Laughter.) Okay, so Windows is an OS that serves more than a billion people in lots of languages -- let's say "lots."  It's crazy complicated, takes a lot of work to get updates ready for the public -- like today.  So why do we torture ourselves with this?  Why do we ship twice a year to the general public?  Why do we ship to Insiders sometimes three or four times a week?  Why do we do this, Jason?  Why?  JASON HOWARD:  Because it's awesome?  I mean, it really is.  When you think about Microsoft five years ago, ten years ago, there was the perception of it being a slow-moving iceberg, really, where it would take two, three, four or more years to get this gigantic update that would come out.  And it would be almost a wholesale overhaul of the entire OS. DONA SARKAR:  Right.  JASON HOWARD:  The look would be different, the feel would be almost completely different.  I mean, especially like when you look at the jump from Windows 7 to Windows 8, like we threw the world for a loop with that one.  DONA SARKAR:  XP to Win 7, too.  JASON HOWARD:  Yeah.  DONA SARKAR:  It was, like, "What is the search box you've introduced?"  JASON HOWARD:  And then that little hop in the middle called "Vista" that everybody -- DONA SARKAR:  Yep.  I was there.  I was there.  JASON HOWARD:  All those question marks that came up.  So not only was it about getting features out to customers faster, there was a lot to be said for getting bug fixes and just general changes out.  And I mean all of this culminated in the reason the Insider Program was created was the old -- let's call it what it is, the old beta program was, "Hey, we're a year out from a release approximately, we're going to give you a build of what we've built so far, so you can start." DONA SARKAR:  And it's pretty locked.  Yeah. JASON HOWARD:  Yeah.  There's not much that's going to change. DONA SARKAR:  Other than like UI things or maybe a driver or some app compat. JASON HOWARD:  Yeah.  And users would, you know, test it out, check it out, throw some feedback over the wall on User Voice or whatever other channel they decided to use, and who knows if it would get fixed or not? So as the world of technology itself continues to evolve with speed to market becoming vastly important, there's and point in sitting on a new feature for two years because, number one, somebody else is going to beat you to market with it.  DONA SARKAR:  Absolutely.  JASON HOWARD:  Somebody else already knows about it and is probably already working on it.  But who wants to be sitting on a broken build for two years?  Right?  DONA SARKAR:  No one.  JASON HOWARD:  I mean, we've got Patch Tuesday or whatnot, but some things require a bit more lifting than can just be dropped out in a monthly servicing-type release.  So now with our new -- I'll just call it a sped-up model, right, of Windows as a service of us dropping a few times a year, new features don't require a two- or three-year holding period -- DONA SARKAR:  No.  JASON HOWARD:  -- before people get to come and check out the latest and greatest.  Like I mentioned, the Insider Program, it's not, "Hey, we're going to give you this a year ahead of time, and you'll get what you get when we release it later." DONA SARKAR:  Right.  JASON HOWARD:  You know, users have that return voice channel between the Feedback Hub and reaching out to -- DONA SARKAR:  Us.  JASON HOWARD:  -- Microsoft engineers directly.  DONA SARKAR:  Yeah. JASON HOWARD:  You know, that's one of the fun things, like I mentioned earlier about being on Twitter all the time -- it's really fun to connect with people that are super passionate about Windows and changing the future of it that love to share their voice.  Now, granted, you know, it's the same as with anything, you know?  We don't always take every single piece of feedback.  It's not always going to show up in the product. DONA SARKAR:  No.  JASON HOWARD:  Especially when you have two people that have diametrically opposed ideas. DONA SARKAR:  Oh, yeah, absolutely. JASON HOWARD:  I like this in light mode, I don't like it in dark mode.  DONA SARKAR:  I like this in hate mode, yeah.  JASON HOWARD:  It's not always possible to make both at the same time.  You just can't do it.  But, really, a lot of it has to do with making sure that the technology we're creating gets out to users in a fast, and hopefully friendly manner.  You know, even our updates have gotten way better than they used to be. DONA SARKAR:  Oh, way better.  JASON HOWARD:  So between that, making sure that we're staying more reliable with, you know, the productivity side of the OS, you know, those features showing up, and then making sure the OS is actually functioning correctly. DONA SARKAR:  That's right.  JASON HOWARD:  Like the number of unexpected crashes and things like that.  We continue to get better on those metrics year over year and release over release.  And then, of course, there's the entire side of getting the features out, like I mentioned before, but if we don't do it, somebody else will. DONA SARKAR:  Right.  JASON HOWARD:  And I would rather us be doing it and helping drive the technology, the sphere of what's coming next, as opposed to being reactive and being, like, "Oh, they did it, okay, let's hurry up and catch up to what they're doing," just to try to achieve parity. Because you can't be a leader in the marketplace if you're chasing parity. DONA SARKAR:  No.  I just like the fact that people are heard in real time.  Right?  Like we rolled out this thing, you know, last Monday and then we get feedback on Monday.  And what's so curious to me is it's still hard for some of the more traditional engineers to wrap their heads around.  At least once a week, I get an e-mail from an engineer in the company who says, "Hey, I checked this code into the build, it's going to hit WinMain soon, how do I get it to Insiders."  I said, "No, you're done.  Your part's now done.  If you checked in code, it's going to Insiders in two days."  They said, "How does that happen?"  I said, "It just happens.  They get the exact same build we have two days later."  Everyone is still kind of wrapping their heads around this, that we can just ship externally, we've been doing it for four years now, it's not new.  But to traditional engineers, it's still mind boggling that things can go out to all the customers who've opted into this, not just like, you know, specific partners and not just like super NDA people, but to anyone who wants it, they can get our fresh coat of paint work two days later.  So that's fun.  JASON HOWARD:  I mean, the fact that that curtain got lifted and that we're showing people so much -- DONA SARKAR:  In real time.  JASON HOWARD:  Yeah.  Of what used to just be, you know, hidden and behind the scenes. DONA SARKAR:  Yeah.  JASON HOWARD:  You know, you don't talk about kind of, you know, for pop culture reference, you don't talk about Fight Club, right?  DONA SARKAR:  Right.  JASON HOWARD:  The fact that we're showing a lot of what's actually being done that quickly.  And whether it makes it into the product or not.  I mean, there's been stuff we've checked in that, oops, we have to -- DONA SARKAR:  Backsies!  Backsies!  Yeah.  JASON HOWARD:  Yeah, we're thinking that back out.  We're showing the human side of code development along the way. DONA SARKAR:  Which is it's messy and awesome in real time.  All right, what's your favorite part of the job, other than being on our team?  JASON HOWARD:  Besides having you as my boss -- DONA SARKAR:  Obviously.  JASON HOWARD:  That's definitely the best part of the job.  (Laughter.) DONA SARKAR:  I'm not yelling at him behind the scenes, Insiders, nor am I beating him with the cake spoon.  JASON HOWARD:  I'm saying that so she doesn't get mad at me from earlier of stealing this particular microphone. DONA SARKAR:  Yeah.  Jason's not going to have an office this afternoon.  Stay in the booth.  JASON HOWARD:  I know, I'm going to just be sitting cross-legged in the hall with my laptop in my lap. DONA SARKAR:  Yeah.  JASON HOWARD:  That's going to give it the real name of a "laptop."  DONA SARKAR:  Yeah, in the hallway.  JASON HOWARD:  It'll be sitting in my lap.  Favorite part of my job?  It has to be the interaction with people from around the globe.  The fact that we have these huge fans that take time out of their personal lives and out of their day, whether they're at work or at home or, you know, spending time with their family or whatever, to engage with us, to come and talk shop with us about our products, the things that impact their life to the extent that they are willing to dedicate their time, their emotions, their energy into helping make it better than it is, and hopefully the best that it can become.  And the fact that I get to play a role in spending time with them and somehow I manage to get paid to do that, that still boggles my mind.  But I couldn't think of a better thing to be doing at work.  DONA SARKAR:  What's keeping you up at night?  Good and bad?  Other than your back pain.  JASON HOWARD:  Yeah, that's not fun.  DONA SARKAR:  Yeah.  JASON HOWARD:  Making sure people are heard.  Going through the long list of feedback that we get and finding what I will call the "diamonds in the rough" of feedback that may be underrepresented, but that is going to have a huge impact.  DONA SARKAR:  The millions represent the billions.  JASON HOWARD:  Yeah.  And when you only hear the voice of two or three people complaining about something, and it's really impactful to them, figuring out that this is really going to affect a lot of people, and it takes data, it takes time to compile that and figure out, you know, hey, how does this scale in the broader scheme of things?  Are these people representing just themselves or a ton of other people, like you just mentioned?  DONA SARKAR:  Right.  JASON HOWARD:  I'm constantly thinking about how do I do a better job of this, what is it that I missed that's going to affect a lot of people?  What can I stop that's going to have a broad effect on people?  And how can I keep them from having that bad experience?  DONA SARKAR:  I really love that, too.  I like when you and, like, two or three Insiders are troubleshooting some super-random-sounding thing.  But then it winds up being like a big deal that affects, like, 100,000 people.  JASON HOWARD:  Yeah, we've caught a few of those along the way. DONA SARKAR:  Oh, yeah.  Absolutely.  JASON HOWARD:  You know, two or three people, and the next thing you know it's like -- DONA SARKAR:  Oh, a lot. JASON HOWARD:  Oh, this is something we really need to pay attention to. DONA SARKAR:  Exactly.  And that's when Jason writes an article and explains things in words.  Yeah.  JASON HOWARD:  Yeah, there's another blog post coming. DONA SARKAR:  Yes, there's more blog posts coming, Insiders.  So you know who to nag.  All right, speaking of nagging and yelling, it's time to go yell at some execs, because it is Global Rollout Day, and we have to go and keep an eye on things and see how our baby's doing in the world. JASON HOWARD:  Indeed. DONA SARKAR:  Indeed.  All right, thank you, Jason, for answering all these questions. JASON HOWARD:  Thanks, Dona.  DONA SARKAR:  And, everyone, have a wonderful day.  JASON HOWARD:  Thank you.    JASON HOWARD:  That's a wrap for Episode 15.  We hope you're excited to test drive these favorite features and more via the Windows 10 April 2018 Update. Get next month's Windows Insider Podcast automatically by subscribing on your favorite podcast app.  Have you missed any of the past episodes?  You can also find them on the Windows Insider website at  Thanks for listening, and until next time, Insiders.    NARRATION:  The Windows Insider Podcast is produced by Microsoft Production Studios and the Windows Insider team, which includes Tyler Ahn -- that's me -- Michelle Paison, Ande Harwood, and Kristie Wang. Visit us on the Web at  Follow @windowsinsider on Instagram and Twitter. Support for the Windows Insider Podcast comes from Microsoft -- empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Please subscribe, rate, and review this podcast wherever you get your podcasts. Moral support and inspiration come from Ninja Cat, reminding us to have fun and pursue our passions. Thanks, as always, to our program's co-founders, Dona Sarkar and Jeremiah Marble. Join us next month for another fascinating discussion from the perspectives of Windows Insiders END
5/30/201856 minutes, 54 seconds
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What’s Up with Machine Learning?

Everyone’s favorite new buzzword is ‘machine learning’ (or ‘ML’) but what exactly is ML and how is it already transforming everyday life and business? We chat with Microsoft engineers about machine learning and the significance of Windows ML, a new AI platform for developers available through the upcoming Windows 10 update. We cover how ML is changing the field of app development and how developers can get started with Windows ML. Finally, a Windows Insider gives us a tour under the hood of his app and discusses how machine learning is baked into the app’s evolution.   Episode transcription   JASON HOWARD:  Welcome to the Windows Insider Podcast.  I'm your host, Jason Howard, and you're listening to Episode 14, What's Up with Machine Learning?  In this episode we chat about ML, its future influence on app development, and the impact of Microsoft's recent Windows machine learning announcement.  Here in the studios with our first guests is Dona Sarkar   DONA SARKAR:  Hi.  I'm Dona Sarkar, Chief Ninja Cat and head of the Windows Insider Program   I'm here today in the studio with some special guests from Microsoft to talk all about everyone's favorite new buzzword, machine learning. I would love for our guests to introduce themselves.  Clint, would you like to go first? CLINT RUTKAS:  Hi.  I'm Clint Rutkas.  I am a Windows developer community champion.  So if you guys have APIs you want in the system, please talk to me. DONA SARKAR:  Exactly.  You'll see him on Twitter a lot talking about the Windows SDK.  So for all of your Windows SDK needs, tweet @ClintRutkas. And then Lucas. LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  Hi.  I'm Lucas Brodzinski.  I'm the program manager lead of the Windows AI platform team. DONA SARKAR:  That is awesome.  What does that mean? LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  Well, we're teaching the robots how to think.  You know, we've added capabilities to Windows for people to do machine learning inference on the edge.  So we're introducing the intelligent edge to Windows. DONA SARKAR:  That is really cool.  Thank you for joining us. LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  Thank you for having me. CLINT RUTKAS: I actually think it's even more than that.  Think about we're adding machine learning, the ability for every Windows device, not just desktop, device, to be able to do machine learning. So I think the big question is like, what is machine learning and why do we care? DONA SARKAR:  That's exactly the very first question I have for both of you, which is let's go all the way back, back, back.  What is machine learning and why is it different than AI? LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  Cool, totally.  So the way to think about AI and machine learning is machine learning is a subset of AI.  The whole concept of AI is you're trying to get a computer to act intelligently, kind of like a human would.  So you can get a computer to do a function like a human would and get a response from the computer as a human would.  Machine learning is a specific technique to try and do that. So for instance, if I'm having a conversation with you guys in real life, like I am right now, you know, I can read your facial expressions and I can kind of change my approach to the conversation based on the facial expressions you guys are giving me. So that's my intelligence.  And we would love to teach computers to be able to react to human interaction in that way.  One potential technique to go about doing that is emotion detection, which there are machine learning models to do. However, machine learning is this technique towards building out this larger intelligence, which is AI. CLINT RUTKAS:  So I think the question is, why would you use machine learning?  Let's say for whatever reason you want to build out a vegetable detector.  Let's say I wanted to detect a carrot versus broccoli versus cauliflower.  So what is a carrot?  So would I do it based on color?  So I have an if-statement that says, okay, well, if it's shaped kind of like a triangle, if it's orange and it's roughly this long in the photo, that's a carrot. Well, there's purple carrots.  DONA SARKAR:  Right. CLINT RUTKAS:  So now I have to add in an additional if-statement there. And then, okay, well, now, what's the difference between a carrot and broccoli?  That's a bit more easy.  But what's the difference between broccoli and cauliflower?  If you ask a kid that doesn't know, has never seen them, they might go like this is a baby version of that. So all those things, once you start having to factor in more and more and more, that code becomes extremely unwieldy, and then that's when machine learning comes in, because now you can start giving -- start training your model, this is exactly what a carrot is.  Here are all the different examples, all the different images we have of carrots, from different angles, different viewpoints, different coloring, different variants.  Same thing with broccoli and cauliflower.  And then magically now we can start getting high confidences with that model, and all I had to do was call a couple lines of code. LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  You hit it really on the nail there.  There are some problems that what we face as developers, you know, our human intuition can solve that problem very, very easily and quickly.   However, when we sit down to write code to fix that problem, it gets a little hard. So, you know, to write the code to detect the difference between two different types of apples can get pretty challenging. An example, the cool thinking about machine learning is, like you said, it creates this model that abstracts that problem away from the developer, so the developer can feed a model on input, an image of an apple.  The model does a lot of computational work to figure out the small nuance differences between different species of apples based on all the training dataset that went into making that model, and the developer just gets an answer of what type of apple it is. DONA SARKAR:  So just to cut you both off for a second rudely, what is "the model?"  You guys are saying, train the model, you know, give the developer the model.  What is that? CLINT RUTKAS:  Okay, so I think maybe a good thing we should probably talk about machine learning is maybe how it works and what are the big components.  So you have an engine, the inference engine, you have I'll say the training system, and then you have the model.  The model is actually what is kind of evaluated.  So if you said, is this an apple, you give the system the model of what is an apple.  Is that a good way to think about it? LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  Yeah, the best way to think about it is, given this large set of data, you can train on that data, which basically means you apply a lot of math to it, and you come up with an algorithm that notices patterns, that can solve functions.  And all of that is contained within this model.  So the model is the thing that describes the data that you fed it during training. DONA SARKAR:  I see, okay. CLINT RUTKAS:  And then you have the inference engine, and the reason why it's called an inference engine is because we're not 100 percent confident.  So we're inferring is this thing an apple.  It may be an apple, we may be 99 percent sure it's an apple, but we're not 100 percent sure.  So it's not a definitive answer, but you have to have a confidence that, yes, if it's, you know, let's say above 80 percent, we're pretty positive this is an apple. Speech recognition is a great example of this where you may say, turn on the lights.  It's going to give you a fairly high confidence rating if the model properly interpreted your natural language, but it's never 100 percent sure. DONA SARKAR:  That's right.  And do you feel like right now machine learning has already taking over our lives a little bit, that it's already kind of infiltrated tools and services that we use on a day-to-day?  Do you feel that that is true?  And if so, what are some examples that normal people will understand? LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  Yeah, totally.  So, you know, the most recent example is if you look at the Windows photos app, you can actually go into the photos app and type in what you want to search for.  So you can type in "dog" into the search field, and suddenly, all of your photo albums will be searched for what the computer thinks is a dog inside the picture.  And as a user, you're presented with all the pictures that have a dog in it.  And that's using machine learning to do image classification and find specific things and images, in this case being a dog. DONA SARKAR:  That's pretty awesome. CLINT RUTKAS:  Yeah, think about all the speech recognition that is in the world now.  So if you have let's say an Amazon Echo Dot or a Harman Kardon Cortana device, if you talk to it, that's machine learning.  You have machine learning built directly into Windows.  If you search as well, that's all machine learning.  If you go to a search engine, that's machine learning.  There's tons of areas in our lives that we have it, we just don't realize what's it's called yet. DONA SARKAR:  So we think of it more like computing rather than machine learning? CLINT RUTKAS:  Yeah.  I mean, machine learning I view it as it's much more of a topic programmers care about, because it either benefits or hurts us the most when it comes to programming what we need to program. As an end user you just want your answer.  It's like going to a restaurant.  You don't care how the food is made, as long as it's made sanitary, but you get the food and you're happy.  You don't care if it's one person making it or 20 people making it, you just get your yummy food. DONA SARKAR:  Okay.  So that phrase, machine learning, is quite buzzy these days.  Everyone thinks they're working on machine learning or want to work on machine learning.  And I think it was the most used term in job descriptions last year.  That and AI.  So why do you think people, who may not be technical, are so excited about this phrase?  What do you think is the potential like going forward?  We know it's been used a lot, but how can it be used to transform all these other somewhat old school industries, like think hotel, transportation, manufacturing, et cetera? LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  Sure.  So, you know, I think we're living in this time where you really have two massive things coming together to kind of fuel all this.  One of it is data.  There's a lot of data out in the world.  And the key thing for machine learning is you need a lot of data to be able to rationalize over.  The other part of it is having access to a lot of compute.  The process of training a machine learning model can be quite rigorous from a computation perspective.  And we're at a point where these two technologies as a for instance having the data and having the compute power have come together. And when you think about sort of all the cool end user scenarios that are possible, I mean, wouldn't it be great if we could have systems that, based on sort of the weather forecast, could predict what kind of hotel availability may be available in a specific city?  That's just one example of how you can make sense of all this data that's around us in a way that could benefit a user. CLINT RUTKAS:  So think outside just the user, think about how this could benefit humanity.  So with machine learning think about growing crops where you can directly use machine learning and models to determine is this a good area for that crop, is something bad happening, should we create targeted pesticide usage versus just blanketing everything.  Or disaster recovery potentially.  Like there's so many different areas where you could do things smarter and faster with machine learning. Manufacturing is another great example.  We showed this at Windows Developer Day.  Imagine you're building out a circuit board, and for whatever reason something hiccoughs and a single transistor is skipped.  With machine learning you can quickly look at it and say, oh, this is missing.  And it's the same model then that would detect if a capacitor was missing, for the most part. I'm looking at Lukas to verify. LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  Yeah, no, that's exactly right.  CLINT RUTKAS:  You can use that same thing, and then now rather than have to do a recall of, you know, 100,000 units, you caught it before it even shipped out. DONA SARKAR:  That's right. LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  Yeah, and, you know, to build on that example, there are cases where in order to make sense of the data that's available today requires a lot of specialized expertise in an area. DONA SARKAR:  That's right. LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  And sometimes, that expertise is not always available.  With machine learning what you can do is offer the computer to make sense of all the data that a human expert would have accumulated over years, and make some predictions that, you know, the hope of machine learning is to create a model that is accurate enough to sort of mimic what a human would have done in that situation. And that's the really cool part about it, too, because you're potentially unlocking a lot of scenarios where we just don't have enough human experts to do something, and the machine could help in those cases. DONA SARKAR:  That news article that just came out, like the farmers in India who are figuring out how to grow crops more efficiently using machine learning, because they definitely don't have the computational expertise to look at petabytes of data on crop growing, so they've been using machine learning to do that, I thought that was such a cool story. CLINT RUTKAS: Yeah. LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  Yeah, totally. DONA SARKAR:  That applies in like every country in the world, agriculture as a thing, so yeah. Okay, so recently, Microsoft, we made a big announcement about the next Windows 10 update and machine learning.  Do you mind sharing with our listeners what the announcement was? CLINT RUTKAS:  So in Windows 10 Version 1803, Windows Machine Learning is built in. So that means every system that is running version 18.03 will have machine learning built-in.  And it smartly takes over.  If you're on a GPU, it will leverage the GPU.  If your device only has a CPU, it will only leverage the CPU.  As a programmer you also have some toggle so you can pick and choose.  This also runs on basically any system -- correct me if I'm wrong here, Lucas -- that runs 18.03, it will just work. LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  Yeah, and the cool thing about it is what we've announced that's going to ship in our next major update is a preview that solves a bunch of problems for developers. So historically, when a developer has approached machine learning problems, there was a couple of barriers of entry that made the process a little hard.  So first, as a developer you would have to figure out, hey, I have this model file that came from somewhere.  And that somewhere could have been one of a handful of different training frameworks.  And each one of them had its own sort of file format associated with it. And the very first task you would have to do as a developer is to ask, well, given this model, I need the corresponding evaluation engine that ships with my software to be available to evaluate this model. With Windows ML we've taken that pain point away, because every single version of Windows has Windows ML in it and is able to evaluate that model. The other problem was having these handful of different training frameworks and different formats meant that as a developer you had this giant format issue of, hey, there's like, you know, six or plus different formats. So, Windows ML has the ability to take an Onyx as a model an input format.  Onyx is something that we're working with industry partners to standardize as the format exchange for ML models.  So as a developer that problem's gone away, too. CLINT RUTKAS:  And we have conversion tools to get your existing models onto Onyx as well. DONA SARKAR:  Oh, that's nice. LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  Yeah, exactly.  And there's already frameworks that can produce Onyx natively as well.  So Azure machine learning can output Onyx today.  CNTK has a (for in-sys?) to save files as Onyx as well.  And more frameworks will be coming online and the converters are there. But thirdly, and you touched upon this point, Clint, as a developer sometimes I need extra computational horsepower in order to evaluate a model.  I want to be able to use the hardware that's on my clients' machines.  And previously, as a developer I would have to target hardware specifically and not in an abstract manner.  So I would have to know what hardware specific GPUs are available on my customer's machines and write code specific to those GPUs. With Windows ML we've abstracted that hardware problem, and as Clint said, we can do model evaluation on any DirectX 12 GPU or the CPU, and the developer can choose or let Windows decide which one to use. DONA SARKAR:  That's pretty cool. CLINT RUTKAS:  And what's even cooler is it's built to be future proof, I guess future proof with quotes.  So we announced this at Windows Developer Days is that it will also work on an MVPU. LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  Right, so what we want to do is we recognize there's a bunch of new ML silicon out in the world that's not exactly a GPU.  But we want to be able to talk about to the silicon in a way where a developer doesn't have to make this decision about, well, how do I talk to that hardware specifically. So at Windows Developer Day we showed an early engagement with Movidius, which is Intel's vision processing unit, to be able to do evaluations using this driver model that we're working on in order to bring these devices into Windows. CLINT RUTKAS:  So imagine in the future you have a device that has one of these chips.  Windows ML will just leverage what the best item you have available on your system. DONA SARKAR:  Right, without you having to do a bunch of extra work and learn this new thing.  Okay, that's cool. So machine learning technology now in Windows, super exciting, but what made you guys on the team actually working on it decide to include it in the 18.03 update? CLINT RUTKAS:  So we've been working on this for years in various different ways, in various different subsystems. So I think the better way to think about it is how long it takes to actually get a feature into Windows.  Windows is everywhere.  It's in servers, it's in desktops, it's in a plethora of devices.  So we've been working on features like this and many others, and it takes years for it to actually get here. So building out all the needed required items took a bit, and now it's finally in a state where we can ship it externally and allow developers to start getting their hands on it and really get their hands dirty, without us literally changing out the plumbing back and forth.  It's one thing for us inside of Microsoft to have to deal with some of this stuff, it's a totally another thing when an external developer has to deal with that kind of sausage making.  So now we feel that it's strong, it's in a shippable state, and we'd love to get feedback and developers to start using it. LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  Yeah, and on Clint's point, we've been doing this for a long time.  We've had a lot of investments in our cloud solutions around AI.  So Azure Machine Learning allows you to do machine learning training.  We have Cognitive Services that allow you to use prebuilt AI in the cloud.  And as Clint was saying, we've finally got it to a point where we were in need of allowing developers to make the edge intelligent as well and do some of these operations without necessarily being able to talk to the cloud. DONA SARKAR:  That's right.  That is awesome.  It sounds like this introduction to Windows machine learning is really going to change the game for app developers going forward. LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  Yeah, totally. DONA SARKAR:  So Windows machine learning is here, it's in the product by the time this podcast airs, any app developer can use it.  It's in preview, so that's to be noted.  But how do you foresee the field of app development changing as a result of introducing this technology? LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  Yeah.  Well, just imagine the intelligence that you can introduce to your app if you had the ability to recognize patterns but not necessarily having to write all the code to do that. So for instance, if you could, given a camera input, realize that, you know, there are these two people standing right in front of me, they're wearing maybe a red shirt, and I know if they're wearing a red shirt they're particularly a vendor at an event.  So maybe I want to provide them with some information about the event.  Imagine sort of all the code that you would have to write if you were going to do that without machine learning.  So one of the exciting things is developers will be able to take on these way more rich scenarios in a way that doesn't require them to write this code.  Now, I think that's just going to unlock like a giant cloud of creativity around how devs approach this space. CLINT RUTKAS:  And I think that's one amazing example.  The other amazing example to me is it allows developers to start doing AI computing on the edge.  And when we say on the edge, it's the end developer system.  There's still times where you're going to have to go up to the cloud and leverage that big horsepower availability in the cloud.  But as a developer you can't do everything in the cloud because of latency for between calls.  Imagine you're dealing with a $30 million device that must have micro-millisecond precision.  I'm not sure if I just made up a term, but I just made up a term. DONA SARKAR:  That's cool. LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  And that roundtrip for going up to the cloud and back could be too big of a gap.  But there are also times where, hey, I might have to make a decision, my model locally is unsure of what's going on.  Then I can go send that query up and leverage that big, rich horsepower of the cloud and get a much more definitive answer.  So you can start doing cost reductions and everything and just make the most of what you have available to you as a developer. DONA SARKAR:  That's really cool. LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  Yeah, totally.  I'll totally sum it up as doing intelligence on the edge so machine learning evaluations on the edge gives you performance, it gives you scalability, and it also gives you flexibility.  I mean, there's going to be times where you want to be able to do machine learning evaluations, but you can't send your data to the cloud, whether it's due to customer preferences, whether it's due to no connectivity.  Having Windows ML allows you to do that on the edge in those cases where you couldn't do it otherwise. DONA SARKAR:  That is really, really awesome.  So these are all of the upsides and all the goodness.  Are there any unknowns or challenges that you two can foresee?  Radio silence on the radio. CLINT RUTKAS:  Okay, so I would say an interesting thing is it's a new skillset for people to start thinking about.  Some people may think of it as, okay, so I have this model.  This model, I didn't code it, I don't know what's in it, I don't know how to debug it.  But at the same time, to me as a developer when I step back and I think about it, I'm okay with that.  Because you can start verifying your inputs and your outputs.  You can also to be sure like, hey, I've done enough unit testing, I trust this thing.  Also, think about all the APIs you call where you didn't code that thing.  I got this external library from someone.  I didn't code it.  I can't directly debug it.  But I'm okay with that. To me it's the same concept; it's just another skill, it's another tool in your toolbox to make you a more productive developer. LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  Yeah, I think for me where there's a challenge there's an opportunity, and I think one of the coolest aspects of this is we're going to see two communities that in the past may not have had the closest collaboration start getting really, really close together. And really what I'm talking about there is the data science community and the developer community. DONA SARKAR:  Ah, yeah. LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  And when you think about it, you know, historically, the data science community has made these like massive advancements in machine learning, and a lot of these advancements were geared at, hey, how do I get better accuracy out of a model, how do I create a new algorithm to do something that just wasn't possible before? And those are great. From a developer perspective you may have some other concerns that you have to worry about.  So, for instance, you might be worrying about, well, how do I get an answer within, you know, some small, little, tiny threshold of time to make my app useful, how do I do that in a way where, for instance, my install size is not massive? And I think you're going to start seeing these two communities come together and start sort of cross-pollinating needs, wants, desires, and together being able to train and also operationalize, you're just going to see the space evolve huge. DONA SARKAR:  That is amazing.  So you guys can be super honest, do I need to call Sarah Connor on the phone?  Are we going to be ruled by machine overlords? LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  You should always have Sarah Connor on speed dial. DONA SARKAR:  So guys, for a dev like me who has written UWPs and Win32s, how can I get started on machine learning the hell out of my app? CLINT RUTKAS:  So my opinion is go to some of the galleries with models already ready.  This is how easy it is to start getting coded once you have an Onyx model, which you can download any model right now, convert it.  All you have to do is take that Onyx file, drag it into Visual Studio, into your UWP, I believe also Win32. LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  We have Win32 and UWP APIs. DONA SARKAR:  That's cool. CLINT RUTKAS:  So you drag it in to your solution, it auto-creates the CS file for you.  From there you get basically your input, your output and your engine.  And basically, you load your model and you call evaluate and you parse your results.  It's basically three lines of code, really. LUCAS BRODZINSKI: Yeah, totally.  CLINT RUTKAS:  I made it sound really simple.  LUCAS BRODZINSKI: No, but you know what, it actually is that simple.  The great thing is with the (for in-sys?) that we added to Visual Studio, as a developer if you have this Onyx file, you don't have to worry about what's inside of it.  We've done our best to expose sort of all the nitty-gritty in a way where you're kind of just plumbing your data types from your apps to data types that the model expects. My way of getting started actually uses some of our other tech that we have in the cloud today.  The easiest thing to remember is there's three steps to starting Windows ML.  You have to load a model.  So that means you have to have a model.  You take some inputs from your application, you bind it to Windows ML.  And then you call evaluate. So how do you get that model?  My favorite way of getting a model is using, which is a service that Microsoft offers to allow you to classify a bunch of images with labels and create a model that basically allows you to feed new images and detect whatever labels you added to the images in the training set. Once you have that model, you bind your application data, whether, you know, it's a picture that you loaded or something from the camera, and you call evaluate.  If I wanted to make an app that, going back to the apple example, detects different types of fruit, I could feed a bunch of images of various types of fruit, each labeled with what fruit is in the image, into, and it will go off and do all the training for me, and just give me a model file that I can then go use in my application. DONA SARKAR:  That is cool.  So say your family, you can take pictures of all of them, label who they are, and then build like some sort of family tree thing. LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  Exactly. DONA SARKAR:  That's really, really awesome. CLINT RUTKAS:  In all fairness, it's more than a couple photos. LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  Family reunions will never be the same. DONA SARKAR:  Yeah, all of them. CLINT RUTKAS:  I'm going to need to take a photo of every angle from you.  That'd be great, yeah. DONA SARKAR:  Ah, okay, there you go. Well, you guys, it's Friday night and I know what I'm going to do.  I'm going to go home and ML the hell out of my UWP is what I'm going to do. LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  Awesome.  Love to hear it. DONA SARKAR:  Because we are cool like that. LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  That is the way to spend a Friday evening. CLINT RUTKAS:  I know. DONA SARKAR:  Clint and Lucas, thank you so much for being here and talking to Windows Insiders about ML. Many of them are coming to Build.  They're going to be insanely excited about this. CLINT RUTKAS:  I cannot wait for Build. DONA SARKAR:  I am very excited for Build. And I'm going to go and actually try to ML some stuff.  And when I get stuck, I know who to call. Thank you so much for being here. LUCAS BRODZINSKI:  Thanks for having us. DONA SARKAR:  Have a wonderful day. CLINT RUTKAS:  Thank you. DONA SARKAR:  Bye. JASON HOWARD:  As our previous guests have mentioned, machine learning is a pathway to achieving artificial intelligence or machines that can make decisions like humans, only faster and more efficiently.  Machine learning is built into the AI of so many everyday tools.  For example, Cortana can chat with you about your favorite sports team, because its chitchat function is continually learning from users how to talk about a variety of topics. How are developers from around the world tapping into the power of machine learning and AI?  Up next, we take a tour under the hood of an AI bot built by a Windows Insider from Kenya. Irving Amukasa was awarded an Insider's for Good fellowship from Microsoft for his innovative work with an artificial intelligence app. IRVING AMUKASA:  Yes! JASON HOWARD:  SophieBot answers user questions about sexual and reproductive health.  Anything you've been curious about but too embarrassed to ask, SophieBot will happily answer. Welcome to the show, Irving.  Thanks for joining us. IRVING AMUKASA:  Thanks for inviting me.  I'm really honored. JASON HOWARD:  So I'm going to ask you a tough one, because doing live demos is always a tricky proposition.  Is it possible to open SophieBot and ask her a question so we can hear her? IRVING AMUKASA:  I hope the sound is good.  Let's see if she can talk well. SOPHIEBOT:  Hi there.  I'm Sophie. What would you like to know? IRVING AMUKASA:  What is sexual health? SOPHIEBOT:  Good health is considered to be a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of diseases or infirmity.  The principles of sexual health are the same.  Physical wellbeing means good health and hygiene for your genitals and related systems.  Mental wellbeing means feeling okay about your sexual desires and needs and not guilty or depressed about them.  Social wellbeing means not facing social discrimination because of your sexual desires and needs or because of any problem that may result from unsafe sex.  The combination of all these factors makes for a sexually healthy you. IRVING AMUKASA:  You have the option to turn off that sound.  Before, it is text, no sound. JASON HOWARD:  It sounded like she gave a very thorough answer. IRVING AMUKASA:  Yes. JASON HOWARD:  So let me ask you, what were the existing challenges that prompted you to design SophieBot? IRVING AMUKASA:  Yes, first thing first is this side of the world, it's awkward and hard to talk about sexual health openly.  To even ask a question is even close to taboo.  And sexual health workers and centers aren't as friendly.  That was problem one.  Problem two is the lack of verifiable information out there.  So those two main problems helped us design SophieBot. JASON HOWARD:  So part of it was the stigma of actually asking those questions, but the other half of it is making sure that the answers you're getting are true and correct and will actually, you know, guide you in the right direction. IRVING AMUKASA:  Yes, that's it. JASON HOWARD:  Here at Microsoft we've found that a significant portion of user interactions with Cortana are actually like a social response or a silly joke type question.  Which is super interesting because it shows users the human side of AI as a whole. In your view, why is being able to interact with a humanlike bot appealing rather than using a digital encyclopedia or just a basic search engine? IRVING AMUKASA:  On SophieBot not everyone asks us about sexual health.  Our most popular question we learned was people want to see Sophie's face.  So we also get those questions that are socially type.  So it's inherent in our nature to ask a question, send out a message, and get feedback and build on top of that.  You can't do that with a blog, you can't do that with any other media, that directly instantly sending out a message and getting actual feedback.  That element of communication is ingrained in us, and that's why messaging bots are big.  And messaging apps are popular because they know that one little secret. JASON HOWARD:  So real quick for our listeners I want to talk a little bit about the difference between AI and machine learning. IRVING AMUKASA:  Yes. JASON HOWARD:  As you know, in this episode we're talking about machine learning.  And as some of the other guests have discussed, the terms machine learning and AI, while they're used interchangeably sometimes, they're actually very different things.  Machine learning is a particular method of achieving AI, which is of course allowing machines to have access to tons of data using algorithms and learning how to perform tasks rather than, you know, a developer hand-coding everything line by line. Can you talk some about how SophieBot uses machine learning to become better? IRVING AMUKASA:  So let me go back to AI in general.  SophieBot started off with like old technology that you had to provide everything.  Now we just call the Artificial Intelligence Markup Language.  It falls under something called rule-based AI.  But that wasn't enough to provide answers to our users, so we had to move up on the learning curve.  Machine learning comes in two ways on SophieBot.  First is us getting insights of the question they're asking.  We don't know who you are but we keep track of the questions you ask and the answers we provide for you.  So when users ask questions, it's insightful for us to know which topics are more prevalent and which is the most popular question. So point one is us finding out which is the most popular question.  We don't do a tally of each question, because people have asked similar questions but then in different ways.  You can't do a tally and manually count.  People have asked about STIs or people have asked about HIV and AIDS. What we do instead is use a machine learning model that looks at the words in every single question, looks at the frequency of those words, and how much they weigh on each single question they've asked, so we can have a popularity graph of the most popular question and the most least popular question. So that's how we use machine learning specifically on SophieBot.  It isn't on answering questions, it's on getting insights on the questions already been asked. JASON HOWARD:  Yeah, so you're highlighting key words from what people say to make sure that, you know, even if somebody does ask it differently, that you know how to respond appropriately.  But then because people are very different in how they address topics, they may not use the right words to get the answer they're actually looking for.  So it sounds like you're going to use some of the machine learning to figure out what they're trying to ask, even if they're not asking the question the right way. IRVING AMUKASA:  Yes.  Also including typos.  If somebody doesn't know how to spell chlamydia or gonorrhea, machine learning points them in the right direction. JASON HOWARD:  So not only are you giving them the right answer, but you're helping take some of the human error out of it as well? IRVING AMUKASA:  Yes. JASON HOWARD:  That's brilliant. See, that's one of the fun things about this whole concept of machine learning and AI in general.  It's like even if we don't get it quite right, and we as humans are the ones that set up the constructs that we're working in, we can still use this cloud-based learning and machine learning and the whole concept of AI to correct ourselves to make sure we're going in the right direction still. IRVING AMUKASA:  Yes. JASON HOWARD:  So as machine learning becomes more and more sophisticated in the future, what's your vision for the next evolution of SophieBot? IRVING AMUKASA:  Interesting.  So the next evolution of SophieBot is an end-to-end system that can take any dataset of questions and answers and be able to automate them.  That's the next evolution of SophieBot.  So rather than us elaborately designing full process flows or designing questions and answers, we go to someone who already has a huge dataset of questions and answers. JASON HOWARD:  So are you trying to take her further than answering questions about sexual health?  Are you trying to expand her beyond that?  Or are you trying to make her more adept and capable in the space that she's functioning in currently? IRVING AMUKASA:  We're doing both.  In essence like that's our business model.  We don't make money from you coming to us to ask questions.  That's we fund it to do that by the native nation population. But we are a business, we are going to make SophieBot sustainable.  And the goal for that is to build that model and be able to monetize that end-to-end model in other domains rather than just sexual health. JASON HOWARD:  That's awesome.  Well, Irving, I've got to say, thank you so much for taking the time to be here with us today. IRVING AMUKASA:  No, thanks a lot, and thanks for having me and have a nice day. JASON HOWARD:  Cheers, man. IRVING AMUKASA:  Bless you. JASON HOWARD:  That's a wrap for Episode 14.  Get the Windows Insider Podcast automatically every month by subscribing on your favorite podcast app.  You can also find all of our past episodes on the Windows Insider website.  Thanks for listening and until next time, Insiders. NARRATION:  The Windows Insider Podcast is produced by Microsoft Production Studios and the Windows Insider team, which includes Tyler Ahn -- that's me -- Michelle Paison, Ande Harwood, and Kristie Wang.  Visit us on the Web at  Follow @windowsinsider on Instagram and Twitter.  Support for the Windows Insider Podcast comes from Microsoft, empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.  Please subscribe, rate, and review this podcast wherever you get your podcasts.  Moral support and inspiration come from Ninja Cat, reminding us to have fun and pursue our passions.  Thanks, as always, to our program's co-founders, Dona Sarkar and Jeremiah Marble. Join us next month for another fascinating discussion from the perspectives of Windows Insiders.  END
4/25/201833 minutes, 30 seconds
Episode Artwork

Lifelong Learning to Grow Your Career + Side Hustle

In this episode, we delve into lifelong learning – the key to growing your superpowers, whether you’re interested in taking the next step in your career or feeding your side hustle. We gathered expert tips and advice on how to keep learning and how to decide what new skills will most benefit you. We also get the scoop on how to get the most out of learning conferences and what it takes to earn a certification from Microsoft.   Listen to this episode for a chance to win a free three-month subscription to LinkedIn Learning! One lucky Windows Insider will be selected to access the entire LinkedIn Learning library of 10,000 courses. To enter, tweet about the new talents and knowledge you’ve gained through LinkedIn Learning, and we’ll randomly select one entrant to win. So, let us know on Twitter how you’ve used LinkedIn Learning to up your game. Then, tag your Tweet with #alwaysbelearning and #windowsinsider to be entered into the drawing. Entries must be received by Wednesday, April 18.   Episode transcript JASON HOWARD:  Welcome to the Windows Insider Podcast.  You're listening to Episode 13.  I'm your host, Jason Howard. Today, we're talking lifelong learning, that is, how to continue growing your superpowers, whether you're interested in taking the next step in your career, feeding your side hustle, or an amazing new hobby.  Plus, we'll share our Windows Insiders can access exclusive free courses on LinkedIn Learning.  Our first guest is "the" ultimate lifelong learner.  She took a break from her busy job at LinkedIn to share pro tips for acquiring at least three new skills every year.  SAVANNAH BARRY:  I'm Savannah Barry, and I am a marketing manager at LinkedIn, and I work primarily on LinkedIn Learning.  JASON HOWARD:  Awesome.  Welcome to the studio.  SAVANNAH BARRY:  Thank you.  Thank you for having me.  JASON HOWARD:  So, we've heard from our colleagues at LinkedIn that you are "the" ultimate lifelong learner and are really savvy in terms of being able to work on new skills to grow your career.  Would you mind sharing with everybody your method for doing this?   SAVANNAH BARRY:  Yeah, totally.  So, I'm just a curious person in general.  If there is a problem that I come across, I'm very eager to learn how to fix it.  I have a hard time, like, just kind of stepping back and saying, "Like, okay, like, someone else handle this problem."  Which I think has driven me to be naturally a very curious learner, and kind of have a desire to learn a lot. So when I first joined, I actually joined the team prior to LinkedIn acquiring, and I worked on our enterprise marketing team there.  And a great example about what I did there was we needed some e-mails to be coded, and we had to basically rely on an engineering team to build them.  And I was, like, "This is not efficient, I cannot get stuff done in the timely manner that I would like it to be."  So I basically taught myself how to code e-mails, which I had no idea how to do.  But I had a need.  I had a problem I needed to overcome, I had some campaigns I wanted to ship, and yeah, I spent months after work learning HTML, taking courses on Lynda, LinkedIn Learning, reading books -- just like basically picking my fiancée's brain, like, "Please teach me how to do this."  And at the end of the day, you know, I think it, in general, has made me a better marketer.  That's a great example of just like one very tactical thing I did. But I reserve an hour out of my week, every single week, to learn.  Truly, I have a calendar invite on Friday, it actually will be after this podcast, where I will basically just reserve at least an hour just to sit down and read something that's like relatable to my career, watch an online course, listen to a podcast -- really, anything that can kind of help me achieve my goals, which I think that has been on my calendar as long as I can remember, so that's kind of how I can carve out time. JASON HOWARD:  Well, it sounds like you have a bit of a system -- almost like you've planned out time to go and learn new things.  Can you describe some of the, like, the mindset and the process you have behind that?  SAVANNAH BARRY:  Yeah.  I think just knowing that you need to make the time, like, kind of just clearing things out of your brain, off of your desk.  I actually go to like a different place.  I'll go to a coffee shop, I'll go to a different room in my house, just kind of find a place where I feel a little bit inspired, just to really sit down and focus on the task at hand.  So, for example, right now, I'm learning UX design.  So I got a bunch of books.  And this all stemmed because I was using an app and I was, like, getting really frustrated at it.  And I was, like, "Why am I getting so frustrated at this app?"  And there's such a psychology behind how we, like, interact with things.  And I was very keen to understand.  So that is currently what I'm doing.  And I have a book in my car that I will be diving into when I get done here, and probably go into a coffee shop or something and read.  JASON HOWARD:  So one of the things that I was kind of told on the side is that you have a vision board, right?  And you list personal and professional skills -- SAVANNAH BARRY:  Yes.  JASON HOWARD:  -- that you want to learn.  What prompted that?  Where did that come from?  I don't have a whiteboard at home, so -- I mean, you know, you might inspire me to go out to Staples or something and go get a whiteboard this afternoon.  SAVANNAH BARRY:  Yes.  I personally think that everyone needs vision boards.  I try to make my family and friends make vision boards with me.  It hasn't really caught on with them as much as it's caught on with me.  (Laughter.) But this year, I actually did it on a whiteboard, and I like drew out what I wanted to do.  So I draw, like, pictures and goals and just what I want my year to look like.  And that always consists of three professional and three personal things I want to learn.  So where did it start?  I think I was like in college and one of my psychology classes, like, talking about vision boards or something -- I don't know.  I don't even remember where -- exactly where it started, but I've been doing it since I was in college.  I used to make my roommates in college do it with me and cut out pictures from magazines and glue them on paper.  We'd go get the hot pink, big poster boards -- JASON HOWARD:  Oh, goodness, yeah.  SAVANNAH BARRY:  -- and like glue stuff on there.  Yeah, I did that.  JASON HOWARD:  It's almost like a high school collage. SAVANNAH BARRY:  Yeah.  But then when I joined LinkedIn, we have these things called "in days" where we have basically one day out of a month where we focus on doing something outside of your job.  So every January, it's like a vision "in day."  So they actually encourage you to make mood boards.  Like, okay, perfect.  (Laughter.) So started doing it at work and now I work at home, so now I have a little bit of a different vision board area, but yeah, it's truly pictures, words, things that just inspire me and kind of keep me motivated throughout the day, throughout the year, and just a way to kind of keep myself accountable for the goals I set early on in the year and just really make sure that those are staying top of mind for me throughout the day.  JASON HOWARD:  Was this something that you did individually?  Did your team come together and you kind of like group -- encouraged each other?  Like, what was that process like?  SAVANNAH BARRY:  Yeah, it was a little bit individual, but I definitely tried to source feedback from, like, my manager, my peers, like, here's kind of what I'm doing, do you have any ideas on, like, professional goals that I should maybe focus on for next year?  This year, one of my learning goals is SEO and SEM, which I haven't really gotten my feet wet with yet, but my manager was basically, like, "Hey, here's something that would be pretty interesting I think for you to learn."  And so that's another thing that I'll be focusing on.  JASON HOWARD:  I'm assuming SEO being search engine optimization?  SAVANNAH BARRY:  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  JASON HOWARD:  Okay.  SAVANNAH BARRY:  Thank you for clarifying.  (Laughter.) JASON HOWARD:  No, hey, I mean, you know, this is my Microsoft, we use acronyms like they're going out of style.  (Laughter.) So can you tell me a little bit about, like, your decision-making process?  You said in this circumstance, you know, your manager, you know, you sought some feedback to help you guide down that path, right?  And, obviously, there's things that you come up with on your own that you want to learn.  So how do you decide what's going to be the best use of your time?  Because, I mean, that's kind of the limiting or deciding factor here is you have to make the time to do it, so where does that decision process come from? SAVANNAH BARRY:  Yeah, you know, I really try to focus on things that I think will help me become the professional that I want to be, and really the person that I want to be.  I think about, "Where do I want to be in five years, and like, what skills will help me get there?"  So I do a lot of research.  I read a lot of blogs, I do a lot of peer research, asking around, like, people who are in jobs that maybe I aspire to be in, like, what are some skills that they think helped shape their career, take them to the next level?  And I usually start with a pretty long list.  I'll, like, throughout the year, I'll have, like, a running Word doc and I'll just put stuff in there, and then I can reevaluate and say, "Okay, here are the things that actually feel tactical for the year."  The UX one was definitely not on my list, it just like -- my, like, obsession with, like, how I'm interacting with things, I was, like, I need to.  This is a learning thing that I need to do, and I do think it'll make me a better marketer at the end of the day.  So that was an off-the-cuff add to the list.  JASON HOWARD:  Wait, so when you look at the concept of lifelong learning, on the surface, it seems like this great goal, everybody should be doing it, but given, you know, we mentioned time a minute ago, some of the listeners are going to sit back and say, "Hey, you know what?  I'm crazy busy, I have laundry to do, I've got work, I've got kids, I've got family, I've got to feed the dog."  Right?  You know, I had to get up at 6:00 in the morning, it feels like I don't get to sit down until 10:00, 11:00 at night.  And it was never my time for me to invest in myself. So how do you stay motivated to make that time?  How do you drive yourself to make sure that you put it on the list of things that you absolutely have to do?  SAVANNAH BARRY:  Totally.  I think that everyone is very busy, and I think that's, like, in general, a big blocker to learning for people.  I've just found ways that it organically works in my life.  So I listen to podcasts a lot.  I'll find relevant podcasts that are aligned to something that I'm currently learning.  And maybe that week I can only listen to a podcast while I'm walking my dog.  Like, that's all I can do.  And that's okay.  Every action you take and every step that you take I think is part of your learning journey, and not everyone has an hour a week to carve out for learning, and that's okay.  If it's bi-weekly, if it's once a month doing two hours a day, I think that, in general, if you need your support of your friends and family and managers, like, it's fun to make it a little bit more of a collaborative experience.  Like, "Hey, guys, I want to make time for learning, you guys should, too."  And I think that also helps create a little bit more accountability, and also maybe frees up some time for you, if everyone around you knows that it's a priority.  JASON HOWARD:  So how has learning helped you professionally?  SAVANNAH BARRY:  Well, in general, I think -- I've gotten a couple promotions within my role just specifically because I've been able to go above and beyond of what my normal job consists of.  I think it -- in general, it's made me a great cross-functional partner.  I mean, a lot of the work that I do in marketing, and I'm sure a lot of other marketers out there, is very cross-functional.  You're working with a ton of different people, a ton of different teams, and I think my desire to understand HTML, desire to understand SQL, desire to, like, understand some of these things that maybe I'm not using a ton, but other people are, has really helped me to be a more empathetic partner, to be a more constructive feedback-giver, it's just really helped me a lot in, like, developing really strong relationships. So I feel really lucky that I actually work on a learning product, it's kind of crazy, it's truly the perfect job, I love it.  But, yeah, I think it's just that curiosity and that desire to always want to be doing more and really just -- that curious mind.  And I think it has helped me in my career, and it's allowed me to start doing like more of a different marketing role.  And I was, like, "Ooh!  This marketing role looks interesting."  And so I started learning and developing and asking people who did that job, like, "What does your day-to-day look like?"  And I was able to move into that role with not having the total skillset that I needed to have, but I think my managers felt confident that I knew what I was doing, and I could handle it.  And if I couldn't handle it, I would learn how to do it.  (Laughter.)  JASON HOWARD:  So one important question that I want other ask you is:  How do you inspire somebody else to learn?  Through the conversation that we've had, it seems a big piece of it is you have to have some of this natural desire, right?  If you're not the curious type, it sounds like it could be much more difficult to kind of get personally inspired.  It's almost like you need to look externally for some of that motivation.  You mentioned mentoring.  That's one of the things that's really important here at Microsoft is the concept of having a mentor, finding somebody who's in a space, hopefully outside of what you're doing, because at least within this company, there's a lot of leaning on your team, leaning on your peers, like partner teams, and you kind of naturally build up some of that learning along the way as you work with other people, but having somebody outside of the circle of which you normally focus on, they can give you a much different perspective.  You know, obviously, this is a bit work focused, but they can give you a much different perspective than the way that you are accustomed to looking at things.  SAVANNAH BARRY:  I 100 percent agree.  I think something that's been really valuable for me is having those mentors who can help me look at what is outside of my narrow range of focus.  And as a mentor, that's something that I strive to do, too, is say, "Hey, like, what do you want to do?  What do you want to learn?  What do you want to be, you know, five year -- two years, next month?  What do you want to be doing day to day?"  And if that doesn't align with what you're doing now, then how can we really set you up for success to be where you want to be?  What are those skills you need to learn to get that promotion?  What are those skills you need to make a horizontal move?  And I think learning can be tied to your professional goals.  And I think so often we lose sight of what those goals are.  I mean, everyone is busy.  Work is crazy, personal lives are crazy, your kids are running all over the house.  Like, things are crazy.  But I think if you keep in mind those goals and talk to someone, find someone in a different organization or different company, reach out to someone on LinkedIn and just say, "Hey, I like what you're doing."  I find myself reaching out to a lot of people on LinkedIn to just say, "Hey, I saw this blog post, would love to know how you went from this job to this job.  Do you have five minutes?"  I just had coffee last night with a friend who reached out to me because he wanted to learn more about what I'm doing professionally.  Like, he wants to make a career change.  And he's, like, "Hey, tell me about some of the skills you acquired to be able to do that.  Help me out.”  So I think just learning on other people and keeping true to your goals and keeping true to who you are, that's really what motivates me.  JASON HOWARD:  Do you have any suggestions on getting people started?  SAVANNAH BARRY:  Yeah, I mean, it depends on what you're trying to learn.  I rely on our LinkedIn Learning, like our own product a lot when I'm thing to learn more of, like, the technical skills that I want for my professional career.  An example, we have instructional designers on our team who basically build out this learning path, and it basically takes you through nine hours of learning, which is a lot, and not everyone has that -- like, it's a collection of courses that it shows you and tells you, "Hey, here's what to expect.  Here's what you're going to be learning."  You can kind of see the courses that you're going to be taking.  And you can say, "Okay, this is a very easy way for me to get started."  I mean, that's what I started doing for UX, I'm deciding to read this book in parallel.  That's what I'll be doing for SEO.  We have a learning path on LinkedIn learning that I'll be using.  That's what I did for HTML, it's what I did for SQL. So I think there's people who have done a lot of the legwork for you, and I think just finding a resource that aligns with what you're trying to achieve.  So figure out that skill.  What are some of the most in-demand skills?  What's going to take you to that next level?  And then find out where you can learn it.  Learning paths are a really, really great, easy way to absorb information, and it's a lot of information.  When I first looked at it, I was like, "Okay, ten hours, wow.  Okay."  But when you actually think about it, that's the whole learning journey right there, that's it all.  Right there, in front of your face, you can look at it on your phone, I listen to just the audio sometimes if it's like more of a soft skill.  There's lots of ways to really engage with learning.  JASON HOWARD:  Well, before we wrap up here.  Any final words of advice or life tidbits or any other awesome vision board things you want to share with the listeners?  SAVANNAH BARRY:  Oh, gosh.  Life tidbits?  I mean, I would just always stay curious, always ask questions, and just keep learning, and have fun while doing it.  I just urge everyone to stay curious.  JASON HOWARD:  Awesome.  Thanks, Savannah.  Thank you so much for your time today. SAVANNAH BARRY:  Thank you.  JASON HOWARD:  Appreciate you being here.  Hopefully, the listeners have enjoyed this as much as I have.  SAVANNAH BARRY:  Yes, me too.  Thank you.  JASON HOWARD:  Cheers.  SAVANNAH BARRY:  Bye.  JASON HOWARD:  For tech professionals, keeping up with the latest knowledge is everything.  Have you ever wanted to know if becoming a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert would be worthwhile?  What about how to tackle the amazing and sometimes overwhelming options to learn at Microsoft Ignite?  We talk shop with our next guest, Aaron Buckley, a Windows Insider and IT pro at the company Alex and Ani based in Rhode Island.  Good morning, Aaron, welcome to the Windows Insider Podcast. AARON BUCKLEY:  Good morning.  JASON HOWARD:  So, tell us about your career as an IT pro. AARON BUCKLEY:  Yeah, sure.  I got my start in IT working at my college help desk.  That evolved into my actual career path.  Even though I was not studying IT in academia.  And so now at my current company, Alex and Ani, I kind of jokingly refer to myself as an "army of one," particularly with client management and devices.  I am running our Intune mobile device management, I am also architecting and governing System Center Configuration Manager, and I am in charge of leading the charge for Windows 10.  We're upgrading from a bunch of 7 and 8.1 machines.  JASON HOWARD:  That is definitely an interesting career path.  I've got to tell you, you said that you didn't go study IT in college.  I'm actually in that same boat, right?  It's something that I haven't talked about on any of the podcasts before, but I was fortunate enough to go to university, and my degree is in economics.  Right?  And here I am working at -- AARON BUCKLEY:  Economics?  JASON HOWARD:  Yeah.  And here I am working at Microsoft, right?  Trust me, I did not see that one coming.  AARON BUCKLEY:  I might be able to beat you in terms of relevance.  My degree -- I got a double bachelor's degree in psychology and in political science.  (Laughter.) JASON HOWARD:  All right.  AARON BUCKLEY:  So I'm not sure how I got to IT. JASON HOWARD:  You took a left turn at Missoula, man.  AARON BUCKLEY:  It's a passion.  (Laughter.)  Yeah.  I should say, you know, while I had my interest in academia, I've always been an enthusiast for technology.  And so I actually consider myself really, really lucky that as my career, I'm doing what I love.  And I know that that's kind of aspirational for a lot of people.  I somehow achieved this, I'm really proud.  JASON HOWARD:  So I have had the pleasure of speaking with you before.  We actually met at Ignite last year at the Windows Insider booth.  We had several Insider roundtables, met you there, learned a little bit about you there and obviously, you know, happy to have you back and actually get to talk to you on a more one-to-one type basis here. Through some of that conversation, you know, found out that you're a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert.  Side note for our audience.  You may be asking yourself, "What is a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert, or MCSE?"  These are folks who have achieved a Microsoft certification that validates they have the skills needed in a particular area -- for example, app development or cloud infrastructure.  Aaron, can you tell us why tackling the certification was important for your career? AARON BUCKLEY:  That's a good question because I've got to tell you, some of these exams, I think they were actually tougher than writing some of my 25- or 30-page term papers.  (Laughter.) For the first couple years of my post-college, entry-level workforce, I was at the help desk level.  And through just demonstrating my technical competency, I got to be a level-three help desk, or escalation technician.  But it was really at the point where -- I remember the conversation.  I went to my boss and I didn't throw it down, but I handed him my certification saying that, "Wow, yeah, I really am an MCSE."  And it was actually a couple weeks after that that I got my first post-help-desk promotion.  And at that point I joined my company's system engineering team.  And that stuck out to me because I wouldn't tell people that you have to have a certification in order to jump to higher levels in your technical career path, but it was a milestone and a marker that I was able to hand my leadership, and they were able to say, "Wow, you not only have you demonstrated to us that you know this information, but you somehow convinced Microsoft that you know that technology."  (Laughter.) And so that, I think, was really important.  That was fundamental.  I'm going to admit that I definitely failed my last MCSE exam three times before I finally nailed it on the fourth attempt.  And let me tell you, when I walked outside having finally passed my certification, I screamed at the sky I was so happy.  (Laughter.)  I mean it when I say that I think these MCSEs gave me more of a challenge that some of my college courses and final exams.  You guys are not messing around. JASON HOWARD:  So, no doubt, you've obviously gained a lot through this process personally, and of course it's impacted you professionally.  So kind of on a broader scale, for others out there who may be considering something like this, what is some of the extra value you see in getting this type of certification?  How would you apply it more broadly?  AARON BUCKLEY:  Jumping to college for a second, a lot of times people emphasize at the point of going through, like, structured college courses is to really build up someone's critical thinking skills and the way that they approach problems.  I would apply that same sort of ethos to the certification process.  I think that the way that I approach confounds now in my system or broadly in IT is strengthened by some of the problem-solving processes I picked up through the certification process.  Not just the particulars of my certification path, like, "Oh, of course, that's where you go in the SCCM console for that."  But also just advancing my core understanding of basic troubleshooting steps.  Like there's an awareness of knowledge that you get going through these certification processes that I think really just levels up someone's engineering perspective, or their troubleshooting perspective. I'm trying to think of the right way to describe this.  It's almost like a refining of the way that I approach problem-solving.  Does that make sense?  JASON HOWARD:  Yeah, absolutely.  If I'm interpreting some of what you said correctly, it's -- part of it is learning the actual materials that you're reading through, right?  Some of it's going to be new stuff, you'll pick it up along the way, you'll get a chance to, you know, take a preview build and go tinker around and see how it works and see how it functions.  But on top of actually covering just the specific materials, it's changing the way you think about what you do already and you've found some ways to kind of tweak and enhance and gives you new products in just some of your day-to-day type activities.  AARON BUCKLEY:  Absolutely.  And I think that's something that Microsoft in the certification process does really well, and I think it's part of Microsoft's intent.  As you're going through these certifications, they're updated constantly, like, I think yearly.  Like, the questions you're asked, the technologies you're asked about.  And I can definitely say that the actual certification and testing process has made available to me the various ways that I can solve particular problems.  Like, for example, there have been a couple of times where, after going through my Windows 8 MCSA, I realized that there were so many things I was doing wrong, or just not doing the best way with even just customizing a Windows image.  And then I take some of that that I've learned and I'm, you know, using PowerShell to strip out -- sorry Microsoft -- the default Modern applications that are in your corporate image.  Maybe my users don't need Candy Crush pre-installed. But even then, like, a recent example would be a problem that I have at my company is that we have a bunch of iOS devices that I have governed through SCCM and Intune, sort of your hybrid solution.  And we've run into some issues because iOS devices, we have no way to govern updates for them, and that's important because my company has a number of line-of-business apps that are made for certain versions of IOS.  Testing might not be fully complete for updating that app to the next version of iOS.  Well, I mean, it turns out that I learned in some of my recent certifications that testing that Intune standalone, Intune based in the Azure portal does have these iOS update policies.  So now that has directly informed me for the next six months or so that I have some architectural changes I'm going to be making to my device management and governance structure.  And that's something that I probably wouldn't have known right off the bat unless it was being made available to me through this process.  Just one example.  JASON HOWARD:  That's awesome.  AARON BUCKLEY:  Really helpful, actually.  (Laughter.)  JASON HOWARD:  So I'm going to shift gears on you a little bit here.  On top of just certifications and things of that nature, obviously Microsoft has many events throughout the year.  Right?  We have Build, we have Ignite.  I mentioned at the beginning of the show, you know, I actually had met you I person last year at Ignite.  What do you think about these types of events?  For somebody who hasn't been to Ignite before, say they're presented with the opportunity this year, right?  Do you have any, like, extra tips for them to try to get the most out of the experience?  AARON BUCKLEY:  I have been privileged enough, and really it is a privilege to have been able to attend two Microsoft Ignite conferences.  Certainly, I'm really hoping my company would send me for a third time this year.  And that is because of how much I've learned.  Ignite isn't a vacation, it's definitely a working trip.  And my first trip to Ignite, I would look around and see everyone, you know, sitting on couches on their computers.  And I'm, like, "What are you guys doing?  There are so many trainings to do, and there's this event!"  (Laughter.)  No, no, no, they had the right idea, I understand why they are taking things they're learning from these hands-on opportunities and starting right away in their environments.  I would recommend that people go through the actual schedule, it's up a month or so before the actual conference.  Go through, pick out a good five or six knowledge areas that you are executing against in your company.  Pick those areas and go through and add them all to your scheduler.  I understand that at the end of that process, you are going to probably be triple or quadruple booked at probably every time slot available, but what I've found is that instead of trying to really structure my itinerary to Ignite, layer it all on and pretend you're Hermione Granger with the Time Turner and that you're going to attend them all because I've found that, you know, Microsoft does all of us a really great service by recording all these workshops.  You're going to be able to attend one per time slot, you know, in person.  Go to the one that you think that if you had the opportunity, you would like to talk to the people hosting those particular workshops.  The other ones, if they're just technical deep dives or maybe introducing new technology, keep it on your schedule, but definitely be sure to go back on your own time after the crunch of the conference week is over, look through all those videos and actually catch up. Thank you, Microsoft, for providing this as a service.  If you can't attend Ignite, I find that a lot of those videos also find their way to the Microsoft Mechanics site, also Microsoft Virtual Academy.  And so all of that is available to you.  I would also recommend that even if you've layered up your schedule, it can feel intimidating.  Your phone's buzzing a lot with alerts for all these workshops and such.  Be sure to actually allow yourself some down time, because it's not going to be helpful to you to be sitting through five straight hours of workshops and then you sit down at the end of the day, and you're trying to remember this massive information dump that you sat through.  No, it's okay to actually skip a session here or there, some are on repeat later on in the week.  I mean, it probably sounds a little cliché, but take care of yourself.  Give yourself time to sit down at lunch, absorb the morning, and prepare yourself for the next round of workshops later on in the day. That's something that I did not do my first year, and I came back thinking that I somehow needed to, in a panic, restructure all of the systems in my company.  There was this crazy anxiety that came from feeling so -- again, I said this word like three times, but so "empowered" by the experience at Ignite. That's some quick survival advice I'd give.  Oh, and there's coffee everywhere, drink all the coffee.  (Laughter.)  JASON HOWARD:  I don't drink coffee, but Mountain Dew, especially Diet Mountain Dew, is my best friend.  Caffeine is a wonderful thing.  (Laughter.)  So kind of on a personal level for a moment, for you as an individual, what drives you to keep learning?  AARON BUCKLEY:  I'm constantly refining my processes.  And as I gained more information, primarily from Ignite and these training videos, I am all the time sort of revising, refining, solving for efficiency, solving for capability -- all these things.  And I've found maybe a little too much of a technologist at this point, but I found that that perspective has been informing me in the broader and broader aspects of my life including, you know, going to the gym and working out and a more healthy lifestyle.  Even my personal finances and such. I've almost found that I'm taking this systems perspective and applying it to so many components of my life. I can't really help laugh at it sometimes, you know?  In a good way.  JASON HOWARD:  Almost like the challenge of it is, in and of itself, a solid reward that keeps motivating you.  AARON BUCKLEY:  Oh, without question.  I guess when I was growing up, I always had this fear of being stuck in a redundant, boring -- I've got to invoke, like, Office Space here, that sort of job situation.  And so working in IT where -- I mean, depending on where you work, every day is a whole, bright, new crisis to solve.  That's something I get a lot of personal and professional fulfillment out of.  JASON HOWARD:  Yeah, I have to say, obviously being a different person, I take some of that same challenge, and that's part of what keeps me interested in my job is each day that I log into Twitter and I talk to some Insiders, see what they have to say, did they like the newest build?  What kind of crazy stuff did somebody find?  And unless it's a broad, widespread issue, every day that I log in, I either learn something new, I meet somebody new.  AARON BUCKLEY:  Definitely.  JASON HOWARD:  I have the chance to learn something about Microsoft technology that I never knew because it's not something I had ever touched before.  I'm going to be writing a blog post here pretty soon on the topic of legacy filter drivers, and you know, some bugs that we worked through.  And it was before this bug came up, I honestly had never heard of it.  I had interacted with them before, right, as an end user, but it was one of those things that it was just part of the operating system, part of the software I was using, and at the same time, you don't know what you don't know. Until I was faced with the need to learn it, I didn't know it was something that I needed to go and learn about.  And now that I know more about it, it's fascinating.  And I'm, like, "Oh, my goodness, there is a lot surrounding this."  And it's amazing how -- without getting too deep into the technology side of it -- one little change can have some really big outcomes, whether those changes are expected, and sometimes unexpected.  But the learning aspect of it is one of the key factors for me that keeps me really excited about my job because every time I get asked a question about something that I don't know about, it means that I have to go learn something.  AARON BUCKLEY:  It's a whole new rabbit hole.  (Laughter.)  JASON HOWARD:  Yeah.  What's something you, individually, are learning right now? AARON BUCKLEY:  So, cars.  I come from a working-class family.  I have a couple uncles, a cousin, a grandfather who are all car mechanics.  And so I'm a computer engineer, I eventually got so aggravated -- not on my current car, I love my car -- but an older car.  The "check engine" light was constantly always on.  And that is horrible for a computer technician.  It's, like, "Oh, my God, there's an error message.  There's an error code.  I must fix."  Instead of putting black electrical tape or something over the "check engine" light, I sort of started the conversations with my family of, "Okay, I need to replace this thing, Uncle.  I don't want you to do it, this is my car, I'm used to fixing machines, I am informed by my passion for computers and fixing those machines." So it's really funny.  I then -- sort of applying that same ethos to learning how to fix my own car.  I can replace my tire, I even replaced my own brakes a couple weeks ago.  Kind of proud of that.  JASON HOWARD:  Well, Aaron, it has been a pleasure chatting with you.  AARON BUCKLEY:  Thank you so much for having me.  JASON HOWARD:  Take care.  Cheers, man.  AARON BUCKLEY:  Cheers. JASON HOWARD:  By now, we hope you're inspired to grab lifelong learning by the horns and maybe even make a vision board or tackle a Microsoft certification.  Our final guests are going to share a few more tips, and some exclusive resources available to Windows Insiders.  Here's Thomas Trombley, senior program manager here at Microsoft.  THOMAS TROMBLEY:  You may have heard that Microsoft purchased LinkedIn, which purchased a few years ago.  Now, LinkedIn Learning combines all the great content of -- that's more than 10,000 courses spanning business to tech skills and creative skills, with the personalization powered by LinkedIn.  Here's a pro tip:  Windows Insiders get access to free LinkedIn Learning courses, and we'll let you know how to access those at the end of this podcast.  We'll also have a surprise giveaway.  Stay tuned for how to enter.  JASON HOWARD:  Thomas is here with our second guest, Doug Winnie.  DOUG WINNIE:  My name is Doug Winnie, I'm the chief evangelist and head of community for LinkedIn Learning.  THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Some of our listeners may not know that LinkedIn is now in the Microsoft family. DOUG WINNIE:  Uh-huh.  (Affirmative.) THOMAS TROMBLEY:  What do you find most exciting about LinkedIn now being part of Microsoft?  DOUG WINNIE:  It's interesting because the culture of the whole LinkedIn experience is still very much LinkedIn. THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Right.  DOUG WINNIE:  But now we have the benefit of everything we have from Microsoft.  So I go to work, I go to a LinkedIn building, I'm able to exchange and do everything, just what we always did, so I don't feel that anything has changed, and everything's been going wonderfully. THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Now, what is LinkedIn Learning versus the LinkedIn social network and platform that most people are familiar with?  And how do the two sort of play off one another? DOUG WINNIE:  So your LinkedIn profile is essentially the front door for all your skills, your background, your experience, volunteer opportunities.  But LinkedIn Learning is able to tie in the skills that you currently have, job opportunities that you're looking to get, and can connect all the learning content that we have to the skills that you want to achieve a change in your career or to apply for another position.  THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Right.  DOUG WINNIE:  Or to look at areas that you want to improve, to maybe do a career shift, or to maybe do a side hustle. THOMAS TROMBLEY:  We're going to talk more on side hustling in a moment.  DOUG WINNIE:  Awesome, okay.  THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Online learning isn't just for students anymore, but people of all stages in their careers.  It just seems to have exploded in popularity.  Can you talk about some of the trends that you're seeing in technology and in the job market that are driving this wave of lifelong learning, especially through platforms like LinkedIn Learning? DOUG WINNIE:  We have this model that we talk about inside of LinkedIn called The Four Squares.  The Four Squares involve major steps that you're taking over your evolution in your position.  You first start off as, like, the eager beaver.  I'm ready, this is my first job, I'm really excited, and I'm going to nail it, okay?  And then you get to this point where it's like -- not quite sure, maybe I bit off more than I can chew.  But then you start doing one thing.  You do one task, you get a little bit of confidence going into that.  And you're, like, "I got this, I can do this."   Then you start doing meatier and larger projects, and you get to the mastery part.  Each one of these four squares represents a step on the journey that you're taking in your career.  Could be a career, could be a job, but it could also be something you're doing outside of your job like a side hustle or some sort of volunteer activity.  THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Right. DOUG WINNIE:  What's important, though, is as you're navigating from square to square, you need to find a new way to engage with your learning because you might have technical skills that you need to get from, say, eager beaver to, "Oh, my God, I'm not going to be able to do this."  To focusing not just on what you're doing, but how you're doing it.  To talk more about the interpersonal.  You might have some life situations that are coming into the workplace, things like that that are not the technical tactical things, but they help you kind of get through roadblocks or hurdles that you need to overcome in order to get your job done.  What happens, though, is when you look at all these four squares, people think that they are in one of these squares at one time.  In reality, you actually are in all four at the same time.  Whether I'm in my career, I'm in my job, whether I'm a parent or a new parent, you know?  My baby's born, this is awesome!  And then you're, like, "I'm responsible for a child."  You know, this is hard.  All these different things exist at the same time.  So if you look at it from that perspective, there's this constant cycle of needing to learn as you're going through this process.  THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Kind of somewhat of a segue to this four-square approach, or this thought process, it kind of feels like a pendulum going back and forth.  DOUG WINNIE:  Uh-huh.  (Affirmative.).  THOMAS TROMBLEY:  And, eventually, you find your path as the pendulum kind of narrows towards the center.  But I recently read a book by Angela Duckworth called Grit, I don't know if you've ever read it.  She shares stories about people striving to succeed, building perseverance and resilience into what she calls, well, "grit."  Doug, do you find it difficult or tough for folks to stick to classes on LinkedIn Learning, given how busy life can be?  Like, how do people have the grit to really see their learning through? DOUG WINNIE:  Everyone has a different approach to what they need to learn.  So sometimes we'll have people that want to tackle a really long learning path, which is a sequence of courses that we've created that might map to a certification, like the Associate Android Developer Certification, which we recently partnered with Google on.  Then we also have PMP certifications and other things that, you know, are very long-tail approaches.  But sometimes you need to just have that one thing that you need to get you through what you're troubled with today.  And it's funny you talked about the grit.  We just launched a course with Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant on Option B.  THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Oh, yeah.  DOUG WINNIE:  Around resilience at work.  We just launched that this month.  And the nuggets that are inside of that, that if you just can watch one thing just to help you through a setback or a hurdle that you're having and to renew the positivity that's inside of you that you know is there, that's just being kind of -- THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Right.  Right.  Exactly.  DOUG WINNIE:  -- pushed down, that can then propel you forward and then be able to go back onto your journey.  THOMAS TROMBLEY:  And I think that offers some of the value proposition around online learning.  Like, there's this explosion of online learning opportunities that can kind of give you that "oomph" you need.  And I wonder if you could talk a little bit about how LinkedIn Learning's offerings different from, say, your competitors at, like, Treehouse, you've got Code Academy, there's Udemy, and the like.  DOUG WINNIE:  I'd say the flexibility.  So just like I mentioned, if you want to go through a long path, you can do that.  If you want to just take one course to get you through a skill that you're trying to work on, or just that one video.  The mobile applications that we have integration with LinkedIn, I mean, all of these things combined make it flexible for what you want to get out of it.  A lot of times when I talk to someone that's really struggling with, "What do I need to know?  What do I need to learn?"  Sometimes, they focus on the skills, they focus on the technology.  "I need to do this, so I, therefore, need to know C#, I need to do all these programming languages and tactical things." THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Right.  DOUG WINNIE:  And I say, "Lead with your feelings.  What do you want the emotional outcomes to be of what you're doing?"  And look at that as another way to approach your learning.  Because the skills we have on LinkedIn and how you can build your profile is able to accommodate those more emotional social aspects of how you do your work, that creates a really unique way of building your learning journey on LinkedIn Learning as opposed to our competitors.  THOMAS TROMBLEY:  That's really compelling.  I feel like you need to teach a course on just preparing to learn or an equivalent.  DOUG WINNIE:  Getting into the mindset of your emotional learning journey.  Yes!  (Laughter.)  THOMAS TROMBLEY:  I think a lot of professionals these days can identify with having a side hustle, as you mentioned earlier, or wanting to make a big shift in their careers.  Could you share with us a story about a LinkedIn learning participant you know or heard about that successfully fed their side hustle? DOUG WINNIE:  There's one person, Sebastian Bleak, I read about his story recently.  And he recently had basically lost everything.  Lost his job, lost his home, everything, was basically living out of his car.  And what turned into a career for him started off as just something very small, a little nugget.  A friend of him said, "Just learn one thing, one thing every day.  It doesn't matter how small, doesn't matter how insignificant you think that it might be.  Just one thing." So in his car, he was basically going through the library learning things like around illustration, graphic design, and through just chipping away at it one day at a time, he was able to get a job at an awesome graphic design company in LA, and he's now an instructor with us, actually, covering T-shirt design. THOMAS TROMBLEY:  That's amazing.  DOUG WINNIE:  But the thing is, if you think about it as just one little chip that you can do to this giant statue that you're trying to create, okay?  It can be overwhelming when you think about the vast amount of things you have to learn.  But if you just do it from a very agile approach and thinking about it as just, "What am I doing today to get there?"  THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Right.  DOUG WINNIE:  I think that's something that's compelling about his story. THOMAS TROMBLEY:  I feel like all too often we get so focused in our day to day -- like, I personally have a to-do list that's a mile long and I sat there and mapped it out in Excel and it said one day to complete all those tasks would take 25 hours per day.  (Laughter.) DOUG WINNIE:  I have, you know, we talked about this before the show.  I've got some tattoos.  And I have one on my arm.  My husband, he always tells me, "Stop planning.  Stop planning everything.  You always are planning everything, why aren't you actually doing the things that you plan?"  So I actually have that on my arm as a constant reminder to say it's not just about planning and creating to-do lists, it's about checking them off and having that sense of accomplishment at the end.  That's part of education, part of learning as well.  Don't get overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of what you have to learn.  What did I learn today?  And take pride in the fact that you learned that.  THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Yeah, I remember my mom would always say life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.  DOUG WINNIE:  Yes, that sounds familiar.  Sage advice.  (Laughter.)  THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Tell me a little bit about how Windows Insiders can access LinkedIn Learning for free.  DOUG WINNIE:  So, we've got some opportunities for the Windows Insiders to take courses on LinkedIn Learning.  And Insiders can stay tuned for the next Windows Insider newsletter to arrive in their e-mail.  And that will include codes to select free courses.  And what we've done is every single month, we have courses from business, technology, and creative libraries, and we recently launched it so that people that are getting the German, French, Spanish, and Japanese editions of the newsletter get localized videos for those languages.  The other thing is tying in with why we're all here in Redmond this week.  We have about 16 courses for our Microsoft MVPs that cover technology from all kinds of different topics -- business, creative, and technology -- and we're unlocking those courses along with the traditional four that we do every single month.  So, that's great to see how we're taking the strength of the Microsoft leadership community and our community leaders and showing how they are able to give and provide their expertise on LinkedIn Learning.  THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Right.  DOUG WINNIE:  So there also is going to be a Twitter contest that we're running.  And for -- THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Ooh!  DOUG WINNIE:  Ooh!  For those that are listening, we're doing a three-month subscription giveaway for LinkedIn Learning.  So if you win this, then you'll get access to LinkedIn Learning plus other LinkedIn career premium benefits to help you with your job hunt, you're looking at salary information or other aspects to basically boost your game on LinkedIn.  THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Right.  DOUG WINNIE:  So what we ask you to do is tweet all the new talents and knowledge that you've gained through LinkedIn Learning and we'll randomly select someone to win.  So to enter, you need to let us know on Twitter how you've used LinkedIn Learning, then tag your tweet with #AlwaysBeLearning and #WindowsInsider, and then we'll enter you into the drawing.  And if you want more information about the contest instructions and rules, you can see that on the Windows Insider website.  THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Let's talk a little bit more about how these folks could get started.  Do you have any tips for folks who want to get started with LinkedIn Learning, like, for anyone who might be feeling excited, but may be overwhelmed by having so much knowledge at their fingertips?  It can be a little daunting when you see the catalogue. DOUG WINNIE:  It is.  One of the things that's unique is when you go to LinkedIn for the first time, you can identify key skills that you're looking to learn.  Based on that, it will then create and curate a selection of courses based on those.  You can then go in and modify.  You can add one, you can remove one.  That will continue to kind of shape the recommended courses that are there. The other idea is to look for a career or look for a job that you are looking to achieve and if you can do that, you can see on LinkedIn all the skills that are required to get that, and you can compare yourself to see, like, all right, how do I match up to that particular job?  Then take those skills and feed them into LinkedIn Learning so you can build a list of courses there.  The last one is to go through our learning paths.  They look daunting at first, but if you look at them from one step at a time, just like I said, one day learning one thing, you will get through and build the statue by chipping away at it one day at a time.  There all kinds of learning paths based on business, creative, and technology careers and topics that are then segmented down into specific job roles or if you're a new manager or if you're entering into an executive or leadership position, there are all kinds of courses that we curate in learning paths to help you down that path.  THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Let's talk about your own learning path.  We've talked about learn one thing every day, your arm says, "Stop planning."  You know, what are you learning these days?  Any secret things you're -- or hobbies or learnings that you're working on right now?  DOUG WINNIE:  So when we talk about side hustles, for me, it's not necessarily a side hustle, it's just something that I love to do.  I love teaching.  And I've got my job at LinkedIn, which I love, but I really enjoy being in front of people and teaching and giving back all the skills that I have amassed in my career.  So I've got 20 courses on LinkedIn around learning how to code and product management, I was a product manager for many, many years prior to coming to LinkedIn.  But I wanted to make that different for me, so I became a teacher.  So I'm a part-time AP computer science teacher at a local high school in the Bay Area.  The experience and the energy I get from that, but also the different challenges of looking at how do I approach a classroom is a learning opportunity for me.  And what's been fascinating is taking my product management skills where I look at things as agile, I put together roadmaps and I am constantly doing feedback from people on an engineering team or a design team and bringing that to the classroom.  Using a lot of the things that are on LinkedIn to help me with gathering data, to put together data visualization and to create a compelling story as to how the students in my class have ownership of the classroom and how I teach has been wonderful.  It's been fascinating because they feel, and they do, have ownership of how I teach.  What do I change?  Do I do more of this?  Do I do less of this?  Do I ditch my lecture notes and do slides instead?  And they're able to add and have ownership as to how they want to learn. THOMAS TROMBLEY:  It sounds more collaborative.  Like, they have a stake in the game in some way and in that, there's a vested interest. DOUG WINNIE:  And they know that I'm accountable to them.  When you think about a lot of teachers and a lot of classrooms sometimes that's not necessarily the case -- at least it was when I was a kid, where it was, you know, "I'm gonna teach this way, this is how it's going to happen."  But when you take skills from other careers or other tracks and are able to kind of blend them together, that's where you're able to unlock about how you can change the way that you approach your career, and hopefully be a ripple effect to other people.  THOMAS TROMBLEY:  That's inspiring.  I happen to know that you're a teacher. DOUG WINNIE:  Okay.  THOMAS TROMBLEY:  I didn't know you were teaching high school kids part time.  I don't know how you can do that.  DOUG WINNIE:  I'm also a part-time varsity lacrosse coach as well, so -- THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Okay, now I'm feeling lazy.   DOUG WINNIE:  No, no, no. THOMAS TROMBLEY:  All right, well, I discovered yesterday that you have a huge presence.  You're almost somewhat of an Internet teacher celebrity of sorts as a programming and technology-focused teacher.  DOUG WINNIE:  Okay. THOMAS TROMBLEY:  I saw you have a Computer Science Principles lab on C# with 100,000 views.  You have the Android App Development Quick Start, which I think you mentioned earlier, and that's got 300,000 views.  Programming Basics, half a million people -- Programming Basics, half a million views.  I even saw one on Windows Phone 8 development.  (Laughter.)  Which actually brought me over to Microsoft a little over five years ago.  As a PM, I'm also looking forward to taking your Product Management Foundations course, it's been added to my list.  But what really got you interested in teaching technology?  DOUG WINNIE:  When I was a product manager at Adobe, which if you go to my LinkedIn profile, you'll see very clearly listed there.  I managed a lot of the developer interactive products that we had.  And I'm the kind of product manager that approaches everything with compassion for the user, understanding the problems that they're having, and good compassion for the struggles that they are experiencing with their products.  I can approach that by improving the products, but I can also approach that by helping people learn how to use the products and the technologies that are there.  So when I was a PM on the side, I did a series on programming and scripting with Adobe products.  And it was just something I liked to do, I wanted to help.  I wanted to share what I knew with other people.  So I did that, and it was a big success.  And it led to a couple books, it led to some other teaching opportunities at places like San Francisco State and other places.  But I found that doing that gave me a new perspective in terms of how I could help people in a virtual way, because I always saw it as kind of a classroom thing where I had to be physically with them.  Because of the power of the Internet and video and being able to connect with all these different people, gave me an audience that I never thought that I had.  When I left Adobe and went to Lynda, I've now had even more people that I was able to really talk to.  And with LinkedIn, we have over half a billion members on LinkedIn.  THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Monstrous.  DOUG WINNIE:  When we think about the power that everyone individually has to write articles, to write short-form posts, or even with your phone, just record a video right with the LinkedIn app on your phone and just immediately put it up there to talk about something that you're going through today or a quick tip about how you were able to solve a problem yourself.  THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Right.  DOUG WINNIE:  You can immediately learn and teach at the same time on LinkedIn.  That got me really excited.  So I joined the content management team, trying to find awesome people to help add more of their experience onto the platform, and then eventually I wanted to connect all these communities together, which led me to my job today.  THOMAS TROMBLEY:  That's a tremendous amount of value under that big umbrella that you described.  DOUG WINNIE:  It's overwhelming sometimes.  But on the same note, I feel lucky to be able to have this opportunity.  THOMAS TROMBLEY:  Doug Winnie, it's been really inspiring to speak with you today.  There's a sign that sits outside my office that says, "The only place that learning comes before knowing is in the dictionary."  And I feel like newly inspired to jump back on my own educational program.  And I hope some of our listeners do as well.  Thank you for your time today.  DOUG WINNIE:  Thank you.  It's been wonderful being here and I'm thankful that I can be the drop to create the ripple effect.  JASON HOWARD:  Thanks for listening to this episode of the Windows Insider Podcast.  Get the podcast automatically every month by subscribing on your favorite podcast app.  Until next time, Insiders.  NARRATION:  The Windows Insider Podcast is produced by Microsoft Production Studios and the Windows Insider team, which includes Tyler Ahn -- that's me -- Michelle Paison, and Ande Harwood, and Kristie Wang.  Visit us on the Web at  Follow @windowsinsider on Instagram and Twitter.  Support for the Windows Insider Podcast comes from Microsoft, empowering every person and every org on the planet to achieve more.  Please subscribe, rate, and review this podcast wherever you get your podcasts.  Moral support and inspiration come from Ninja Cat, reminding us to have fun and pursue our passions.  Thanks, as always, to our program's co-founders, Dona Sarkar and Jeremiah Marble. Join us next month for another fascinating discussion from the perspectives of Windows Insiders. 
3/28/201850 minutes, 58 seconds
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Closing the Digital Divide

What does the world stand to lose without equal access to technology and the internet? Microsoft’s Dona Sarkar and Leonardo Ortiz discuss the Microsoft Airband Initiative and why the future of jobs and education make closing the digital divide more important than ever. Then, Windows Insider MVP Andre DaCosta from Jamaica, shares his thoughts on the power of connectivity, plus a few tips for optimizing Windows while having limited access to the internet.   Episode transcript JASON HOWARD:  Welcome to the Windows Insider Podcast.  You're listening to Episode 12.  I'm your host, Jason Howard.  Today, we're exploring the digital divide and access to the Internet, what does the world stand to lose if some people have access to technology and the Internet and other people don't; what can be done about the digital divide; and why should all tech companies care.  Those questions and more coming up in this episode. First up, Dona Sarkar, head of the Windows Insider Program, chats with Leonardo Ortiz of Microsoft Philanthropies about how the digital divide profoundly affects communities, education, and employment. Here are Leonardo and Dona. LEONARDO ORTIZ:  My name is Leonardo Ortiz.  I've been in Microsoft for 18 years now, and I currently work for the Microsoft Philanthropies group where I oversee our global execution. DONA SARKAR:  Which is, you know, kind of amazing LEONARDO ORTIZ:  It's definitely fun, you know, and it has to do with figuring out how we land our programs all over the world. DONA SARKAR:  That's right.  So as a society we're in the middle of an exciting technological transformation, but there's billions of people around the world, and millions right here in the U.S. who don't have access to tech and the Internet.  Why is this issue of digital divide so critical, and why is Microsoft Philanthropies so committed to solving it. LEONARDO ORTIZ:  As you say, you know, the world is changing at a very rapid pace. Everything is becoming more digital, which means the way in which we work, the way in which we learn, the interaction with government, with commerce. And as the world becomes more digital, when you have more than half of the population in the world with no access to technology or connectivity, which on itself shouldn't matter that much but for the fact that that connectivity allows you to access opportunities, content, knowledge, services, then these people are lagging behind even in a more rapid pace. They are underserved already, and the gap gets just widening in a more dramatic way. And they're not being able to advance and access technology by market means, which means that companies like Microsoft, we really need to step up and do some extra work in addition to what we normally do in our business model to ensure that technology advances but that we left no one behind, to the extent possible. DONA SARKAR:  You said over 50 percent of the world has no connectivity. LEONARDO ORTIZ:  Exactly. DONA SARKAR:  That's enormous. LEONARDO ORTIZ:  Not even a feature phone, nothing. DONA SARKAR:  Nothing. LEONARDO ORTIZ:  Nothing. DONA SARKAR:  So more than 50 percent of the world is never connected. LEONARDO ORTIZ:  Exactly. DONA SARKAR:  That's pretty extraordinary.  And I know you guys have been doing a lot of work over the past few years to ensure that people in communities have access to the opportunities that tech provides.  Can you tell us a little bit about what you've been doing. LEONARDO ORTIZ:  Yes.  So our main goal is to bridge that digital divide, to ensure that people have access to technology, but most important to ensure that people is ready for the future.  In a world in which we're going to see more artificial intelligence, more robotics, the way of working is going to evolve rapidly. We need to make sure, and I'm going to start with young people, that all the future generations that will come to the workforce are future ready, that they're learning not only how to use technology but how to create technology, which is now going to become not just something that is useful for the software industry, but for everyone, regardless of the discipline that people pursue.  So that's going to more generalized in the future, and we need to make sure that that happens. Right now, we're seeing displacement starting to happen, job displacement, people whose jobs are going away because of automation, and especially in areas like the manufacturing industry or retail industry. And we need to work with society, with academia, with nonprofit sector to ensure that we're identifying those people, that we're reskilling those individuals, and that we're matching them to the existing jobs that are out there, because people may just think jobs are going away, but you know what, every time that technology evolves and that industry evolves, jobs go away but other new jobs come up. DONA SARKAR:  That's right. LEONARDO ORTIZ:  But we just need to make sure that people are trained rapidly enough to be able to plug into the existing jobs. So we're working on those two fronts, and a third area of work is ensuring that the nonprofit sector, which is one that doesn't have a lot of budget and that solely focuses on addressing some of the most difficult societal issues in the world, that they are also adopting technology so that they themselves become more effective, more productive, and do more good around the globe. DONA SARKAR:  The best way to empower them is by being able to scale with tech. LEONARDO ORTIZ:  Exactly. DONA SARKAR:  I love that. What you just said about jobs go away but new jobs emerge, and we have to really take the responsibility to train the next generation to be able to do those jobs, it reminds me a lot of that article that Brad Smith recently wrote about the retirement of the horse - LEONARDO ORTIZ:  Oh yes. DONA SARKAR:  -- with the introduction of the car, and all of the new jobs that came along with the introduction of the car, different jobs, completely different. LEONARDO ORTIZ:  That's a great example.  A great stat from that story is that in the year 1900, New York City used to have 100,000 horses.  DONA SARKAR:  Wow.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  That was what made possible everything in New York, right, people moving from one place to another, products being moved.  And then 20 years later, those horses were gone.  Imagine the amount of people that were driving the coaches or the veterinarians or people feeding the horses or cleaning after the horses.  Those jobs went away, but now you needed chauffeurs for cars and drivers, mechanics, and a breadth of other roles that existed.  Now, can the person that was cleaning the barn after the horse, was that individual skilled to now go and repair a car?  No.  DONA SARKAR:  No.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  But something needed to happen.  And that happens in any industrial revolution, and that happened all over the world.  The countries that have the ability or the societies that have the ability to learn faster and adapt faster are the ones who emerge to the top.  DONA SARKAR:  So true, and history has dictated that this will happen over and over again.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  It's happening, yeah.  DONA SARKAR:  It's happening.  So speaking of happening, can you share a success story that represents what people or communities can achieve once they have access to technology?  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  We see a lot of different stories, all inspiring.  Especially, when I talk to people, to journalists and other people around the globe, and we talk about all these 52 percent of population in the world that has no access to technology, some of those communities don't even have running water or electricity.  They barely have food.  They have no education.  So people ask us, why would they care about having technology when they're not even covering these needs, right, their essential needs.  And the answer is that technology helps leapfrog certain stages of development.  And technology helps accelerate the ability for communities to access things, content, different services, that will allow people to improve their quality of life.  A great example of this is these three kids from Uganda, Aaron, Joshua, and Josiah.  A couple of years ago, they participated in a competition that we have in Microsoft called Imagine Cup, you probably have heard of it, which is inspiring kids in high schools and colleges to learn how to develop software.  And then by doing that, they enter this competition in which they create solutions for problems that they see in their communities, whether it is related to health or education or the environment or something else.  These kids are from Uganda, and they realized that the rate of mortality of mothers and newborns was very high in rural areas, these places that had no running water, on electricity, nor clinics.  And the mortality rate was high because there wasn't enough health, not even physicians but nurses or other people, practitioners or facilities to even monitor the pregnancy.  And where you had community clinics of some sort, they didn't have the equipment, like no way to do an ultrasound, right?  So with a mobile device, a mobile phone, and coding, they invented a very low-cost device, and software, to actually replace the sonogram or the ultrasound machine at a super-low cost.  Basically, it's the cost of the device, just the phone.   And they started deploying it in rural Uganda.  And they tried it, they created this thing no one had ever created something like it, definitely not the industry, because it's a very cheap solution.  And in the communities in which they piloted, the mortality rate started going down very quickly.   They have now been in contact with local governments from a couple of African countries, or national governments from African countries that are now interested in expanding the use of this solution to be able to provide a better quality of health to expecting mothers in rural Africa.  That's a story I love.  DONA SARKAR:  I love that story.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  And like that we see a lot of other examples of great things being done.  DONA SARKAR:  I love that.  That's such impact, because it affects not just the mothers but their entire family, it affects huge communities.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  Oh, it's a multiplying effect.  DONA SARKAR:  Yeah.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  Yeah, that's why organizations say that if you work with women, the multiplying effect in society is huge, because in many cases, especially in developing countries, women are heads of family.  So you impact the whole family immediately.  DONA SARKAR:  I think that's fascinating.  What you said about leapfrogging is really powerful, because we have a Windows Insider named Caleb teaching tutorials.  He used the Minecraft ones that your team produced to teach basic tech education to these kids outside Nairobi, in Kenya.  And these are kids who have never seen a computer, who have never been in a connected area.  So he goes to town with a car, some PCs, tutorials, sets up this hub, and actually gets them hands-on time with these tutorials.  And what's fascinating is that the kids take to it immediately, they learn it right away.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  They do.  DONA SARKAR:  And parents will often come and say, "What are you wasting your time with, this has no place in our life, we need you to be helping on the farm," you know, this kind of thing.  So Caleb told us a story that his best student is a ten-year old named Bernice. And one day, Bernice's mom comes to school and says, "Why is she wasting her time with this?  This has no room on our farm.  We need her to work on the farm."  And Caleb said, "She is learning things that will enable her to bypass farming forever."  And to Eunice that's like a shocking stat, right, she doesn't know that that means.  So what Caleb did was he pulled in the parents and the teachers into learning to code so they also have the opportunity to leapfrog their lives, and they're able to actually help their kids with technology, because when kids have questions, you go to the adult in your life.  And Caleb knows he's not going to be around in their village forever, so he's systematically changing people's lives, not just kids, but the adults who love them, who care about them.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  This is a great example, and it speaks to what we're really getting when learning how to code, which is it's not the coding, it's you're learning critical thinking, problem-solving.  DONA SARKAR:  That's right.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  And in the long term we in Microsoft and many other players in the industry and in academia are convinced that computer science education is fundamental and should be compulsory in the same way in which we all learn biology and chemistry and physics.  Not because we will become part of the health industry or go and work for a chemical company, but because, for example, for you to know how your body works you needed to learn fundamentals of biology.  In an increasingly digital world, if we want to understand how things work in society, we need to learn computer science.  DONA SARKAR:  Oh, absolutely.  I think everyone has to learn computer science.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  Even if you're not going to become an engineer.  So that's --  DONA SARKAR:  Essentially if.  And I tell everyone it's like reading and writing.  Just because you can read and write doesn't make you an author.  You don't need to become an author necessarily.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  Exactly.  DONA SARKAR:  But it's fundamental to learn.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  Exactly.  DONA SARKAR:  So in order for people to actually learn computer science, we need connectivity.  And like you're saying, over 50 percent of the world's population isn't online.  And in the U.S. 23 million people in the rural parts of the U.S. don't have access to high-speed Internet or broadband.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  You know what's crazy about that?  Even in some of these communities we have data centers, and other companies have data centers.  Can you imagine you go outside of a data center there's no connectivity for the community, the neighboring families?  DONA SARKAR:  That's crazy.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  So that's a big problem.  It's a global problem, of course.  We have been as Microsoft engaged in trying to address this problem for a few years now.  We have around 18 different projects around the globe.  We're currently heavily investing in India, which is a vast country, also with a huge gap in connectivity.  But you would imagine that people would say developed countries don't have this problem.  DONA SARKAR:  Oh my.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  But you then go and look at the stats, and, you know, 24 million people in the United States --  DONA SARKAR:  That's not a small number.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  -- that live in rural areas don't have access.  Actually, the number is greater when you add the people in urban areas.  It actually goes up 32 million people in the United States, 23 of which are in rural areas, which is where the problem is more pronounced.  And that's an issue.  Why?  Think about the education model in the United States, for example, right now, requires students of all grades to access resources and do homework online.   DONA SARKAR:  That's right.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  That's generalized.  It's like all districts have components that are online.  More and more and more as a parent you need to engage online.  The kids come home, and they need to do homework online, and they check for answers of their math homework online to see, okay, did I solve this problem right, and then online you have the whole construction of how you did it.   If you don't have access, if you're an 11-year-old or a 12-year-old in middle school, you had no way of knowing if you did your math homework right or wrong.  Or sometimes to even go and do what is required online.  And if you don't do that, that means that you start falling behind.  DONA SARKAR:  Immediately.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  And that's exponential.  And for purpose of the example let's just put it in time.  If you fall a month behind from everyone else, the next year you're two months or three months behind.  It's exponential.  The more you fall behind because everyone is advancing rapidly, the gap starts widening very quickly.  That's one example of why connectivity is very important.  DONA SARKAR:  That is a frightening realization.  I had not thought about that in that way.  I'd thought about it in terms of this will just keep these people from knowing about opportunities that exist in the world.  But if it starts all the way in elementary school, they don't even get there.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  It impacts education.  People think, okay, if you don't have connectivity, then too bad, you need to go to the store instead of shopping online, or you won't access Facebook.  No, it's not about that.  DONA SARKAR:  No, it's just about basic education.  It's online.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  It's about basic education.  And when you think about that, then that impacts everything else in society.  DONA SARKAR:  Yeah.  My gosh, I hadn't realized, because, you know, when you and I went to school, looking stuff up online was not a mandatory part of our life.  But now it is.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  Now it is.  And you could say, well, those kids then need to go to the library, but that could be a partial solution, but it is not enough because now everything is online.  DONA SARKAR:  And they are going to have to assume certain things:  library is there, it's open, library has connectivity, they have enough computers for everybody.   LEONARDO ORTIZ:  There are stories that we've heard of kids that live in zip codes in which there's no connectivity and are required to do certain homework online, and kids driving somewhere to the neighboring town and standing outside of a café or a store or somewhere that has Wi-Fi in a parking lot trying to do the homework.  DONA SARKAR:  Wow.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  So when you think about that, it's like this, we really need to solve this.  DONA SARKAR:  We have to solve this.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  Exactly.  DONA SARKAR:  This is a global problem, but definitely a local one, as well.  So what have you found are the main challenges that stand in the way of closing this connectivity gap?  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  There are different components to it.  There is a regulatory component to it, and there is a technology component to it.  The technology piece, it's kind of solved in the sense that there's existing technology that can help address this at a lower cost than the normal broadband by fiber optic.  The problem is infrastructure.  So these places don't have connectivity because there's no fiber optic network to go and do that, because there's not enough market, why all the investment.  In the United States we clearly have an initiative called Microsoft Airband Initiative is that trying to address this.  Microsoft has been investing in developing, along with some partners, technology that allows us to use the unused TV radio spectrum.  DONA SARKAR:  That's right.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  They call it TV whitespaces.  DONA SARKAR:  Yes.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  So it's when you think about the UHF channels, for example, I'm old enough to remember changing the TV not with a remote control but just using those channels.  Radio and TV, by the way, use that radio spectrum.  In places like LA or New York the radio spectrum is full because there's a lot of --  DONA SARKAR:  A lot.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  -- TV stations and a lot of radio stations.  But as you start going to more remote places, you hardly have usage of the radio spectrum.  All that unused space is space through which you can transmit data, as well if you have the right technology.  So MSR in Microsoft, along with other engineers, have created technology that allows you to access that, to put some antennas and be able to transmit some Wi-Fi signals in the radio spectrum.  Now, the way to scale this is not just to go and put a standalone antenna here or there, but to partner with commercial partners that are interested in having a low-cost solution for selling connectivity services to the population.  DONA SARKAR:  Ah, I see.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  But you asked me about the main challenge, and I'll get to the partnerships and how we do this, but the main challenge right now is more political.  It's about getting the regulatory approval, because it has to do with permits to be able to deploy those solutions in different locations.  DONA SARKAR:  So the technical problem is not the biggest challenge that we face.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  No, the biggest challenge is getting the approvals.  That's why when we launched our initiative a few months ago, Brad Smith, who's our president, presented this plan in Washington, DC in front of a lot of representatives and people from the DC community, calling for clearing these regulatory hurdles so that we in an easier way deploy this technology across the country.  That's one part of how you solve this, and then once that is cleared --  DONA SARKAR:  That's right.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  -- then you work on the business side of the house, which is, you know, we need to partner.  We don't want to become a broadband company.  DONA SARKAR:  No, not at all.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  That's not -- that's not our goal.  DONA SARKAR:  We have no intention.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  We're interested in the technology to solve the problem.  That's why we're partnering with local providers in order to figure out how to create a model that is cost effective for the population, and that doesn't require the millions of dollars of investment in fiber optic.  DONA SARKAR:  So it benefits the Internet Service Provider at a lower cost without them having to invest upfront so much that they say no.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  Exactly, because if the density of the population is low, then the ROI for investing in fiber optic in certain places, it's not there.  DONA SARKAR:  It's not there.  So funny TV whitespaces story for you, outside Nairobi there's a region called Nanyuki.  Satya had gone there for Win 10 launched.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  That's where he launched Windows 10, exactly.  DONA SARKAR:  Yes.  And he actually met a Windows Insider named Chris Baraka, and Chris actually works for a company that does TV whitespaces in Nanyuki.  He's one of our Windows Insiders we work with quite regularly.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  Oh, that's amazing.  And that's one of the first projects that we ever did in the world, and a lot of learning has come from that, and we are trying to replicate that in many places.  And that's what we're trying to do in the United States.  DONA SARKAR:  I think that's amazing.   So what does Philanthropies all up hope to accomplish in the next year, and eventually long term?  What would you consider to be success?  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  There's a couple of things that I will call out.  We're trying to train students or even young kids that may not be in school and teachers, teachers to be able to teach computer science education, and students to learn it.  We've already in the past few years trained more than 300 million kids.  DONA SARKAR:  Three hundred million? LEONARDO ORTIZ:  Yes.  DONA SARKAR:  Wow.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  Three hundred million.  And this is a count that we started like five and a half years ago.  DONA SARKAR:  Yeah, but 300 million, that's very impressive, that's amazing.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  Yeah, yeah.  Teachers we're in the thousands still.  It's a harder challenge.  And we started more recently to focus more and more and more on teachers.  We just want to keep working on those numbers, but most importantly ensuring that different countries adopt computer science education as compulsory in their education system, because we will never scale unless the formal education system integrates computer science education in their curriculum.  DONA SARKAR:  Absolutely.  There's many countries who made it mandatory, like I think England was one of them.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  Well, and England is in the right path, Korea, Russia, and a few others, but the majority of the countries aren't.  DONA SARKAR:  Absolutely they are not.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  Including the United States.  In the U.S. there are still 18 states that have not adopted computer science education as a subject that can earn you credits for high school graduation.  DONA SARKAR:  That's insane.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  Forget about K-12, right now --  DONA SARKAR:  Eighteen?  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  Yeah, 18 that still need to pass legislation.  And we have a team working on that, and we're moving fast to do it, but there's a lot of work there.  That's one part of what we want to accomplish.  On the other end, and I mentioned that earlier, that working with nonprofits for us, enabling them with technology is a multiplying factor to help address some of the most pressing challenges around the globe.  So accelerating technology adoption, especially cloud technology, for nonprofits is also something that we want to do.  Right now, we donate technology, over a billion dollars' worth of technology to more than 100,000 nonprofits around the globe.  We actually want to in the next couple of years multiply that to reach 300,000 nonprofits.   Two years ago, in the World Economic Forum in Davos our CEO, Satya Nadella, said that we were committing to donate a billion dollars' worth of cloud services to the nonprofit sector over the next three years.  And we have very rapidly seen progress there.  But it's not about the investment, it's about how many nonprofits actually get on technology, ours hopefully, but any technology, to be able to do their work in a better way.  And that's what we want to do, that's our goal.  DONA SARKAR:  I love that.   Thank you so much for being here.  This has been such a pleasure, obviously something we're deeply passionate about.  And, you know, we have millions of Windows Insiders, every country in the world.  So whatever we can do to help, just let us know, because, one, we have access to technology.  Two, we have a great passion for using that technology knowledge to make a lasting impact in the world.  So if you ever need a million friends to do something, we're your people.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  We always need that, so thanks for the offer --  DONA SARKAR:  Of course.  LEONARDO ORTIZ:  -- and I hope that we work together on different projects with your community around the world.  DONA SARKAR:  Of course.  Thank you.   LEONARDO ORTIZ:  Thanks.  JASON HOWARD:  Windows Insiders around the world cope with the connectivity gap, including our MVPs.  Next up, we'll be chatting with Andre DaCosta, the first and only Windows Insider MVP in Jamaica.   Andre is dialing into our story from Jamaica.  You might notice a few glitches in the audio, and that's due to the very problem we're talking about today, limited Internet connectivity.  Hi, Andre.  Welcome to the show.  What are you working on these days?  ANDRE DACOSTA:  Hi.  It is great to be here.   This is Andre DaCosta from Jamaica.  I currently write for where I write a combination of how-to articles, tips and tricks, and how to get the most out of Windows 10 and Office 365.  As you mentioned, I am the one and only Windows Insider MVP in Jamaica right now, and I hope to change that.  I actually participate every day on the Microsoft communities where I offer my help and expertise in using Windows 10, and it was recognized many years ago when I was helping out with Windows 7, and I was nominated to become an MVP.  JASON HOWARD:  Awesome.  So our listeners can find you on Microsoft community and at  Well, tell us a bit about where you live in Jamaica.  What do you see when you look out your window?  ANDRE DACOSTA:  Well, I currently live in the central part of Jamaica, which is the Parish of Manchester.  That's about 60 miles away from the capitol, Kingston.  It's mostly a rural area.  There are a lot of farms around.  So I wake up to seeing like goats and chickens and cows and stuff like that around me.  And lots of nature.  It's a really nice place to live if you really want quietness.  JASON HOWARD:  I was going to say, it sounds like a beautiful place to be.  ANDRE DACOSTA:  Yeah, it is.  I am not too far from the beach actually.  JASON HOWARD:  A little sun and sand anytime you want it.  What about the Internet connectivity in your community?  ANDRE DACOSTA:  It's not great.  Currently, I use a metered connection.  I had to travel to my brother's home today to set up this event.  Every two days, I pay like about $2 U.S. to get about 300 megabytes of data, which I use to do my work.  And that's really that's how I've been working for a long time now.  It's a struggle, but I do work with it, and make the best of it.  JASON HOWARD:  So it sounds like in an area that has either low Internet connectivity or in your case highly metered connections, it sounds like you need to use some specific strategies in adapting to that type of environment.  Can you tell us a little bit about that?  ANDRE DACOSTA:  Definitely.  You really have to be planning ahead.  Time management is an asset.  You really have to know how to use your time wisely.  But I try not to make it frustrate me or anything.  I'm still doing what I love.  I enjoy doing this.  JASON HOWARD:  Within the Windows OS itself is there anything particularly helpful about Windows, any settings or things that you can change that help make this process any better?  ANDRE DACOSTA:  Well, for me personally one of the big issues I had initially with Windows 10 was it's a service.  It really delivers a lot of its functionality through the Internet.  So using a lot of features in Windows 10 required that I had a good Internet connection.  But at the same time, Windows 10 allowed me to manage how I access the Internet.  So features like the Metered Connection settings in Windows 10 allowed me to really manage which programs and services were able to access the Internet.   And it's interesting, because a lot of persons, especially in North America, had similar issues.  And I was able to write an article, and it turns out to be one of the most popular articles I have on, how to manage your Internet usage in Windows 10.  So I'm able to help persons still use Windows 10 and use all the offline features that it has to offer.   And there are many programs that you can still use offline, and it doesn't necessarily have to be like this operating system is going to use up all my data, what am I going to do.  You can use features in Windows 10 to manage your bandwidth, and at the same time take advantage of all the new features it has to offer.  JASON HOWARD:  So you did mention in settings being able to go through and set metered connection settings, and that it helps control how much bandwidth is being used.   ANDRE DACOSTA:  Yeah.  JASON HOWARD:  Are there any application level settings or other things anywhere inside the OS that you've found through this trial and error process that you were able to provide tips and tricks on to other users? ANDRE DACOSTA:  Again, going back to the metered connection settings, but also in Windows Update there are ways to control how Windows Update downloads updates.  So I can also adjust whether I want to share my bandwidth with other computers I have on my personal network at home, and I can also turn on certain background applications from accessing the Internet in the privacy settings.  So those are features that are available for users to explore and try and see what works for them.  You don't have to wholesale turn off everything.  JASON HOWARD:  So having said that, how would having a better Internet connection make a difference for you?  ANDRE DACOSTA:  I try not to look at it just from my perspective alone.  I think personally for the wider community where I live I think having better Internet connection would lead to a better community.   One aspect I think that would really help is in education where a lot of young people leaving high school, you know, college is not affordable, it's very expensive, and I think for a lot of young people leaving high school the first thing they think about is getting a job to support that dream of eventually going to college.  I think that's one of the areas where the Internet can definitely help when it comes to higher learning.  It equalizes the playing field for many.  I think one of the great opportunities of having a faster, more consistent and reliable Internet access would be to provide students leaving high school the opportunity to continue their education.  For a lot of students leaving high school, especially in my community, it's difficult to think about going to college right away, and many have to think about getting their first jobs.  And what that does, it tends to limit the opportunity to go to school, because once you start going into the work world, it minimizes that feeling of going on to higher education.  So I think for a lot of young persons, having access to fast Internet would give them the opportunity to continue learning using social media, using sites like YouTube to continue learn, and continue to pursue their dreams.  JASON HOWARD:  Do you see any economic benefits or opportunities that better Internet could bring to your community?  ANDRE DACOSTA:  The shared economy is an opportunity.  Platforms like Airbnb, they're coming online here in Jamaica.   Another opportunity also is even for farmers.  You know, they will be able to sell their products and advertise it to new markets.  The Internet is really the basis for the economy going in the future.  And you can't have people just thinking about leaving their rural towns and causing this exodus to go to another town where there might be better Internet.  You need to build up your local communities.  And I've made a conscious effort to stay where I live and contribute to my local economy.  And it's through the work I do as a Windows Insider I'm able to do that.  JASON HOWARD:  You've done an amazing job of describing both the challenges of limited connectivity and the potential for positive change if the gap were to be bridged.  Do you see any other ways that better access to the Internet could make a positive impact?  ANDRE DACOSTA:  You know, Jamaica has recently been going through a lot of issues in terms of the crime and violence.  And I think it goes back again to the youth not having opportunities for them to really do things to make a change in their society.  And I think if the Internet was available in a way where they could use it as a platform to build solutions that the society really needs, even if it's someone maybe starting their own Internet café in the community.  JASON HOWARD:  Yeah, it would definitely change the landscape that you're currently operating in.  ANDRE DACOSTA:  Yeah.  JASON HOWARD:  Are there any parting words of wisdoms you'd like to share with the rest of the Windows Insider community?  ANDRE DACOSTA:  Sure.  The Windows Insider program is great.  You know, if someone told me three years ago that Microsoft would release a new version of Windows two times per year, and giving the opportunity to try new releases of it every week, you know, I would say you're crazy, but it's actually happening.   And the opportunities to really contribute to the product and to see the features actually be realized is one of the great things about the Windows Insider program.  I'm actually seeing features suggested become actual technology, the end products I use every day. So I just encourage Windows Insiders all over the world definitely open up that Feedback Hub, and make sure you send in the feedback if you really want to see change, because it really does happen.   So I applaud the engineers, people like Dona and Jason and Jen and Brandon, who engage with users on Twitter every day, applaud to you.  You know, you're doing great work, and it's just for us, the users, to continue sending in that feedback to help make a great product even better.  JASON HOWARD:  Thanks, man.  You're making me blush over here.  (Laughter.)   Well, I have to tell you it has been fantastic chatting with you.  Thank you for sharing your experience with us.  And best of luck to you in your work.  ANDRE DACOSTA:  Same to you, Jason.  Take care.  JASON HOWARD:  Thanks for listening to this episode of the Windows Insider Podcast.  Join us again next month when we chat about lifelong learning, side hustles, and free learning resources for Windows Insiders.  If you liked this episode, subscribe on your favorite podcast app and share it with your friends. Thanks, Insiders.  VOICEOVER:  The Windows Insider Podcast is produced by Microsoft Production Studios and the Windows Insider team, which includes Tyler Ahn --- that's me -- Michelle  Paison, Ande Harwood, and Kristie Wang.  Visit us on the web at  Follow @WindowsInsider on Instagram and Twitter.  Support for the Windows Insider Podcast comes from Microsoft, empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.  Please subscribe, rate, and review this podcast wherever you get your podcasts.  Moral support and inspiration come from Ninja Cat, reminding us to have fun and pursue our passions. Thanks, as always, to our programs cofounders, Dona Sarkar and Jeremiah Marble.  Join us next month for another fascinating discussion from the perspectives of Windows Insiders.  END
2/28/201834 minutes, 31 seconds
Episode Artwork

Mixed Reality Part 2: Creators

How is Mixed Reality (MR) changing the way we experience the world? We explore this question with three creators using MR to entertain, connect, and assist people with different abilities. First, we chat with Mia Tramz, Managing Editor at LIFE VR, about using virtual reality to travel the world. Then we catch up with Zach Clark, a veteran who was injured in combat and is now using HoloLens to help people with visual impairments and brain injuries navigate hospital settings. Finally, Microsoft's Dona Sarkar and Spencer Reynolds take us on a tour of becoming a virtual hologram via Microsoft's Mixed Reality Capture Studios.   Episode transcript JASON HOWARD:  Welcome to the Windows Insider Podcast.  You are listening to Episode 11 part two, in our series on mixed reality.  Today, we're talking to creators in the mixed reality space. Mixed reality, also known as MR, is the term for experiences where physical and digital objects coexist and interact in real time.  We can reach these experiences through a combination of headsets, computers, and external sensors, or more sophisticated technology like the HoloLens. Microsoft, and Windows in particular, has been a leader in enabling mixed reality experiences.  In fact, Windows 10 was built from the ground up to support innovations in mixed reality. To learn more about Microsoft's commitment to MR, check out part one in our series on mixed reality. Hardware and software technology are both important for mixed reality, but so is the context available on the platform.  Creators in MR are using it to tell stories, enable innovation, and even provide medical care.  We're still discovering all the ways MR could impact our lives. Our first guest today talks to me about the challenges and opportunities of creating entertainment content for virtual reality platforms.  She's calling in from her office in New York where she develops mixed reality content for Time, Incorporated, the media giant behind more than 100 magazine brands and websites, names you've probably heard of like Sports Illustrated, and Time Magazine. MIA TRAMZ:  My name is Mia Tramz.  I'm the Managing Editor of Life VR, and newly Time's Special Projects Editor for Time Magazine.  I develop and produce VR and AR experiences for all Time, Inc. brands.  So that includes Time, but also Sports Illustrated, People, EW, Travel & Leisure, Food & Wine, Essence & Style, the list goes on and on and on.  And I also lead the company's strategy in both markets. JASON HOWARD:  Wow, it sounds like you have quite the reach. MIA TRAMZ:  I do, I do.  I get to do a lot of fun things and wear many hats. JASON HOWARD:  So officially you are Managing Editor for VR Content.  What's a typical day like for you. MIA TRAMZ:  On the one hand, I can sit down with the editors from pretty much any of our titles from Time to People to Sports Illustrated, and brainstorm, you know, big ambitious and smaller, quicker turn VR, AR, and 360 projects, or I can go out into the world and find projects that align well with our brands, and kind of integrate those editorial teams into the development of, you know, projects that are coming to us from the outside.  And then I also get to come up with a lot of projects on my own, which has been a really fun part of the job. We create for and publish across many platforms, everything from Facebook 360 to Samsung Gear to our Life VR Cardboard app, which is available for free for iOS and Android -- do my little plug -- to Oculus and Vive, which are, you know, at the higher end of the spectrum. We are also very newly a Microsoft MR launch partner, so we have a Life VR app on the new Windows MR platform. And, you know, each of those platforms requires an understanding of what works best on that particular device, understanding the different types of production that it takes to create some effective for those different platforms. So I get to work a bunch of different muscles, and I'm constantly learning and being thrown into new situations.  It's a really fascinating job. JASON HOWARD:  No doubt that keeps it interesting and entertaining. So you've mentioned, you know, the broad variety of platforms that you engage users across, like the Life brand itself has a long history of telling stories across a ton of different subjects, you know, everything from news to sports, fashion and food, of course.  How does your approach in telling stories in the virtual reality space differ from telling stories with traditional means like video or a magazine feature. MIA TRAMZ:  Well, I'll answer that in sort of an indirect way.  Life VR is meant to be an extension of the Life Magazine brand.  When this initiative was, you know, being thought up in our company, one of the issues they were trying to solve for was going into VR as a publishing company was distribution.  It's one of the hardest parts of being a creator in the VR space right now, getting eyeballs on what you're creating. And what they decided was instead of, you know, developing separate VR apps for People and Time and Sports Illustrated, it would make more sense to create an umbrella brand that all of that content rolls under, so that if you went to go watch a Sports Illustrated experience, you might come across a People experience that you were interested in or a Time experience while you're in that environment.  And that's what the Life VR app is. But the reason they gave it the Life name I think is really interesting.  They went back and found the original prospectus that Henry Luce, who founded Time and Life Magazine, wrote for Life.  And if you read it, it reads like a VR pitch.  He's talking about taking you to places that you couldn't see otherwise, to see the shadows on the moon and the depths of the jungle and to walk through walls. And if you think about the format of Life Magazine, you know, it was those huge, beautiful, printed pages, and gorgeous, huge photographs.  It was about as immersive as you could get with a print product.  And he was giving you a window onto the world that you wouldn't have had otherwise. So I think in creating a Life VR brand we were taking the legacy of our storytelling, which was to transport our readers to all the places in the world that they can't get to otherwise, and really fulfilling what we think the promise of VR can be with the brands of storytelling that we're so well-known for. JASON HOWARD:  So how would you convince somebody who normally prefers traditional media, for example, like a print magazine or whatnot, to give this virtual reality thing a try. MIA TRAMZ:  This is a person I have to convince that I am physically with, I would just show them a few VR pieces, and that's something that I do a lot in my job.  I do a lot of VR demos. And my thought there is it's pretty immediate when you see a good VR experience for the first time.  There's not much selling that I would have to do.  You kind of just get it. But in terms of our readership, this is something that we think about a lot.  There's a lot of consumer adoption hurdles when it comes to VR.  If I make a project and someone comes across in like their Facebook feed, or if they're hearing about it from a friend, that project needs to be interesting and compelling enough that they're not only going to go out and find the app to watch it and that they then have to download, but they're also either going to find or buy a VR headset to watch it in, and then they're going to take some of their TV time to sit down and watch this thing that I've produced. So from the get-go the projects have to really excite the viewer enough to do all of those things to watch them.  And then once they get through all those hurdles, you have to kind of deliver on what the promise of the projects seem to be. So for example, instead of turning out a high volume of content that maybe isn't quite as ambitious, what we've focused on is tackling really big projects that if you came across them on any channel that you're getting your content from, or if you heard about it from a friend, if you heard about this project, you would feel like you had to see it. So, for example, Capturing Everest was one of our projects that we released with Sports Illustrated in May of this year, and it's the first bottom to top climb of Mt. Everest in VR as a documentary VR series.  We released it in four episodes, and we start by following three really amazing climbers.  One of our climbers is Jeff Glasbrenner.  He was the first American amputee to summit Everest with our climb.  Then we have Lisa White, who's a cancer survivor.  She was in chemotherapy while she was training to climb Everest.  And then after she finished, therapy went straight to Nepal in order to climb.  And then we have some really amazing Sherpas and mountaineers that are helping them reach the summit. That project was both a VR experience, it was a print story and a cover story for Sports Illustrated.  We published it as a series of 360 videos on Sports Illustrated's website.  And then there's also a whole augmented reality feature that we launched with that issue of SI. If you came across that project, my hope is that it's so cool and it's so exciting that you're willing to go through all of the hurdles needed to actually watch it.  It's really about capturing people's imagination and making the case to them that this is worth your investment of time, regardless of whether you're familiar with the technology or not. JASON HOWARD:  So obviously making the path and taking the trek to go to Everest is something that while some people do, there's a lot of people that won't have that opportunity in their life.  Which kind of leads me into the next thing that I want to ask you about. Life VR has done a ton of work for travel publications, including recently a virtual experience for Vancouver, BC in Travel & Leisure Magazine.  Can you tell us a bit about how virtual reality will impact the future of the travel industry. MIA TRAMZ:  I think what's really amazing is we can give you a sense of actually being in that place in a way that you can't get with video or with text.  And I think the other really exciting thing is with Travel & Leisure in particular, it's not so much about hotels or cruise ships or things like that, there really is kind of an adventure, some spirit there that we can tap into. JASON HOWARD:  I can see how that would make a big difference in getting people excited about travel.  How do you see virtual reality technology changing entertainment like television or film. MIA TRAMZ:  Where I think VR becomes really interesting in the film industry is when filmmakers use it as a standalone tool for storytelling as opposed to something that's augmenting a film that they're creating anyway. So I think the best example of that and the most interesting example of that right now is Alejandro Iñárritu's piece CARNE y ARENA, which is installed at LACMA in Los Angeles. This piece is different in a few ways.  It's a physical installation, so it's an experience that you are walking around in.  You are watching what is essentially a documentary film in VR.  He has recreated an encounter between border agents, immigrants, and refugees at the Mexican-American border, and he's recreated an interaction that actually happened.  You are in a way stepping into a documentary film, both visually and physically. And when you think about that, and then you perhaps add in the layer of what if you could do that sort of experience with let's say four or five or your closest friends, and you could see each other in the experience, I think the opportunities that opens up for a filmmaker get really interesting. And I think that the resources that the film industry has in terms of producing something that at that level, with how much it costs, the technology that's needed to pull that off in the way that you would want to see it, it's something that the film industry will be able to do with VR that no other industry really has the infrastructure to tackle in such an interesting way. JASON HOWARD:  So we've talked here about the film industry and previously we mentioned a little bit about the travel industry.  What other industries do you see virtual reality having a broader impact on. MIA TRAMZ:  Well, I think healthcare and education are two really big ones, and they're ones that I'm working on within Time, Inc.  I think it's important for your listeners to know that VR is not a new thing.  It's been around for over three decades.  And it has historically been used as a teaching tool. So for example the military and NASA have used VR for decades to train soldiers and astronauts.  It's been used to treat PTSD.  It's been used to provide stress relief. And I think in the medical industry now some of the more interesting applications are using VR instead of anesthesia, using VR to help patients have a better overall experience at a hospital. There's some really interesting applications where VR can have inherent value as a tool as opposed to being a means of entertainment.  And I think there's been a number of studies conducted by Professor Jeremy Bailinson at Stanford's Virtual Human Interaction Lab around VR in education as it applies to elementary, middle school, and high school. When you get into how could it enhance education on the school level, how can it enhance healthcare, both from a training perspective and a patient experience perspective, I think that there is a ton of promise there for those two industries. JASON HOWARD:  Well, I have to say this has been a fascinating chat.  Hopefully, our listeners have learned a thing -- I know just from the conversation with you I've picked up a thing or two along the way, so thank you for that. MIA TRAMZ:  You're welcome. JASON HOWARD:  But before we close out, is there anything else you'd like to share. MIA TRAMZ:  You know, I would love to encourage your listeners to seek out our content, either from the Life VR app, which is something you can download onto your smart phone if you have iOS or Android, or of course on the new Windows MR platform.  We have a really fun, new application for that headset where you actually get to step into a 3D world that is inspired by the Life archive and see some of our most famous covers as huge buildings.  It's a cityscape built out of Life Magazines, and then you can explore some of our other experiences in that environment.  It's pretty cool. JASON HOWARD:  Awesome.  Well, Mia, thank you so much for your time.  It's been a pleasure chatting with you. MIA TRAMZ:  You, too.  You, too.  Thanks for having me. JASON HOWARD:  Mixed reality has the potential to transform so many industries.  And like Mia mentioned earlier, healthcare is just one of the fields that could see big changes with this new tech.  Take, for example, this Windows Insider who is developing a HoloLens app to help people who have severe brain injuries. Zach Clark is a veteran who sustained a brain injury while serving as a machine gunner in the Marine Corp.  A machine gunner is a highly dangerous combat position, and Zach was wounded while serving in Iraq.  Now he's working to help people with similar conditions through mixed reality. Zach, welcome to the podcast.  Tell us about your background and how you got started on this project. ZACH CLARK:  A little bit about myself, I've always tinkered with computers, even before the Marine Corp.  I would always take stuff apart, and somehow we'd lose parts.  And so I became pretty good with computers.  My family wanted me to find something in the computer job, and I wanted to -- you know, I wanted to fight instead.  And obviously that's where it got me to where I am today dealing with my injuries and my issues. JASON HOWARD:  What was your experience in combat, and how did you get injured. ZACH CLARK:  One of the big pinnacle moments there, being part of a regimental combat team, we encountered a boxed laser.  And they would point the lasers at the gunners that they attempted to ambush.  And this is kind of like one portion of the story, because this still affects me emotionally to this day. So they hit me in the eye with a high powered box laser on the back of a truck, less than a second, and it blinded me in my right eye.  It melted the film around my Oakleys.  And so it really kind of messed with the medical teams, and they didn't know how to treat laser injuries.  I think I was one of the first to get hit on a truck. They medevac'd me out, put an eye patch on.  They didn't realize that the optical nerve ripped.  So sent back to the truck, and I started doing convoys again, looking like a pirate. And one day I was on top of a 7 ton, and loading up our machine gun, which was an M2 .50 cal, and I was trying to set it down, and something with the optical nerve shorted out my brain, and I ended up going head first, falling about eight to nine feet, and then having a .50 cal slam down on my neck as well. They dealt with that.  They couldn't figure out why I fell.  They said the impact just from the laser itself causing the tissue to retract caused portions of my lobes to contract so hard they scarred up. And so that was kind of a pinnacle point in my life, because that's when everything kind of went downhill. JASON HOWARD:  So what has been the result of that accident for you ZACH CLARK:  The memory, it's unstable.  I'm on about 15 to 20 different meds a day. And so working with the Insider program and doing all that has kind of kept a consistent thing for me, and that's helped my memory.  But some days I can't walk, some days I can't get out of bed, all the way down to where I would be puking every day, but, you know, pardon that detail. JASON HOWARD:  You spend a lot of time trying to work with your community and give back.  Part of what you're doing now is developing an app for HoloLens, right. ZACH CLARK:  Yes. JASON HOWARD:  Can you tell us about how that project came around and what you're doing. ZACH CLARK:  So that project came around with my own issues actually.  I would get lost.  I would have an issue with remembering my medications, remembering which area of the hospital I needed to go to that day. And so I've been kind of messing with mapping tools, geolocation, and I'm trying to develop almost like signal indicators for the hospital so that someone with my issues can put the headset on if they're in a wheelchair or whatever, and it will help guide them through, it will help remind them that they need to do this or they need to do that. I'm doing that because I had a huge issue with it, but I also still have a pretty big issue with it.  And I wanted to help people with eyesight issues to where there's somewhat of a proximity.  I knocked down the Christmas tree a few years ago, the tallest Christmas tree at the Crown Center because I didn't see it.  I mean, there's not a lot I could do back then, but now being able to have something to develop on and develop with, I can apply my own struggles to prevent others from having that issue. JASON HOWARD:  So obviously you're taking your own experience and your own situation and trying to use technology in a way that will help make that experience easier for yourself, but it also sounds like the whole concept of mixed reality can support other people, either those who are elderly or other people who have some sort of disability.  It seems like there's a natural pathway here. ZACH CLARK:  Exactly. JASON HOWARD:  So personally it sounds like you've had quite the life experience so far.  What are some of your goals for the future. ZACH CLARK:  Goals for the future is get the app up and going, at least help one person a week.  And right now, I mean, I'm just helping people day-in and day-out.  I want to feel better, both mentally and physically.  But my main goals are going to continue helping, and I will do that. JASON HOWARD:  Talking to Zach and Mia about the merging of digital and physical worlds got me thinking.  How does one become a hologram?  Turns out Microsoft has production studios devoted to doing just that.  We asked Dona Sarkar, head of the Windows Insider program here at Microsoft, to investigate.  Listen as she goes on location to Microsoft Capture Studios and walks us through the technical process for capturing mixed reality content. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  I'm Spencer Reynolds.  I'm the Stage Manager here at Microsoft Mixed Reality Capture Studios.  We have a stage here in Redmond, and we have stages in San Francisco and also a partner stage in London that we just opened both of those latter two stages within the last month or so. DONA SARKAR:  So Spencer, you and I know that mixed reality best reality, but do you want to describe what that is to other people. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  So basically what we're capturing here is really just living things.  We're creating human holograms and living things.  And so knowing that mixed reality is an awesome platform, it's that much more familiar and exciting to be in when you're there with living things that you can recognize and they look living. So what we're really exciting about capturing and creating here is people, and making holograms out of them.  So that way when you're in one of these experiences, it's not so much just an environment or an experience that's all CG, you can really be in that environment with a person that you recognize or an incredible performer or any other sort of living thing that makes it that much more tangible. DONA SARKAR:  What kind of living thing. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  Any kind of living things.  We've had all kinds of stuff between dancers and educators and undead zombies and weight lifters and, you know, baby tigers and animals are always fun.  People always - DONA SARKAR:  Did you just say baby tiger. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  I did say baby tigers.  Baby lions, sloths, llamas, all kinds of stuff.  Big and small, animals are fun.  But they are animals, so sometimes they're - DONA SARKAR:  So they're unruly. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  They can be a little unruly.  They don't take direction quite as well.  But they are still quite fun. But also, yeah, I mean, in addition to animals and educators and all that good stuff, you know, we find that it's not just entertainment that we use this for, we're really trying to target this for anything that you use video for today in terms of entertainment but also education and commerce and even personal memories.  It's one of the most innate things that people see when they come through the stage is they're like, I want to bring my kids through, I want to bring my grandparents through, and try to get sort of a memory of somebody that's in their life that they love. DONA SARKAR:  That's amazing.  Who's the most famous person that you've had in here. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  It's a pretty good list at this point.  I'm trying to think of some of the ones that are public at this point.  We had Russell Wilson come through.  We had George Takei come through, Billy Corgan, which was just recently announced.  A few more coming down the pipe that are not quite out there yet. DONA SARKAR:  Ooh, a secret. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  Yeah, secret, secret. DONA SARKAR:  That is so cool. So what is the weirdest thing you've recorded. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  That's an even longer list, but yeah, all kinds of wacky stuff.  Weird is one thing, but definitely just exciting or interesting.  There's been lots of stuff where we've been recording, and I just can't help but shake my head while we're doing a capture, just like I can't believe we're here doing this. But I wouldn't say grumpy cat is weird, but definitely - DONA SARKAR:  Definitely weird. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  -- definitely an odd experience seeing grumpy cat out on the stage. But yeah, I mean, also just the wide variety of like, you know, people in cosplay costumes and people just kind of being themselves doing amazing things of performance, you know, Cirque du Soleil performers, just kinds of all wild, wacky stuff where every day it's just, wow, I can't believe we're actually here capturing this wide variety of stuff. DONA SARKAR:  That's amazing. So why do they come to you?  What are they trying to achieve by coming in here to the studio. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  Well, I mean, really this is one of the few places in the entire world where you can capture holograms of humans.  And so our goal with this project is really just to create more of this content, because mixed reality is great and mixed reality again is that much more palpable when you have content that makes sense that people can relate to. A lot of our projects are both Microsoft internal projects, but more so recently external projects where it's either an agency or a creative group that wants to come through and capture somebody that's recognizable, somebody that they're going to be using for their experience. And so part of that also is just getting more of these stages accessible and out there.  We don't want to own and operate stages that only we're the gatekeepers for.  It's really about getting more of these stages, and also having more partner stages so that around the world these stages just become more and more accessible to people that want to get this kind of content. DONA SARKAR:  That is so cool. The Windows Insiders and the two of us are giant nerds. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  Likewise. DONA SARKAR:  Talk to us about how this works.  How does it work?  Can you describe the process for how you capture footage for mixed reality. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  Yeah, certainly.  We have a huge stage with 106 cameras.  And half of them are color cameras and half of them are infrared.  So we basically record performances of the people who are out onstage, and while we're recording that, it's about 10 gigabytes of data a second. And then we take all of that data, and we put it to a render farm.  And then as we process it, we basically extract out a video file that's on the order of 10 megabits a second. DONA SARKAR:  Wow. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  So it's a pretty big compression, but what that allows us is basically to stream this content, and sort of deliver it to a wider variety of audiences, and also across a number of platforms.  It's not necessarily just for Windows or HoloLens or anything like that.  I mean, obviously it looks great on HoloLens and mixed reality devices, but we like to remind folks that it works out touch devices, it works on mobile, it works on desktop.  Pretty much any platform where you can change the viewpoint, this content works just as well there. We look at this technology not as something that's going to replace motion capture or replace computer graphics or anything like that, it's just another tool, it's another way of creating the content.  There are definitely like pros and cons that each one of these technologies has, and so it really is fun to sort of explore those as we make more of this type of content. DONA SARKAR:  All right.  Let's have a walkthrough. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  Yeah, indeed.  Come on up. I'll warn you there's a sticky floor.  We've lost a couple kids there; they get stuck. DONA SARKAR:  Wow, look at this.  This is very green.  Yeah, this is very, very green.  So why is it green. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  A couple reasons.  The main reason that this stage is green is because green helps with determining what's in the stage and sort of what is the background.  And that's really important for us as we do processing is knowing sort of what's in the foreground and what's in the background. The green isn't necessarily required, we sort of called this setup sort of the best case scenario, this is the perfect world in terms of it's very green, and you'll notice that the lights are all nice and bright and really evenly lit.  As you look around, there aren't a lot of shadows on the floor, there aren't a lot of shadows on us. The reason that we tend to shoot with very even lights is because when we go into a HoloLens experience, we don't necessarily know what the lighting is in the world. DONA SARKAR:  That's right. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  You don't want shadows conflicting.  So we often just kind of say, okay, you're evenly lit. But for other experiences where maybe we do know what the environment is, we can try to recreate that environment.  And by doing that, it gives the capture a lot more detail in terms of shadows or color that maybe matches up with the world that you're going to put that character into.  And it really does take it to a whole other level of sort of embedding that character into the world. DONA SARKAR:  So I know you all can't see this but this is the most green room you have ever seen, like Kermit the Frog green everywhere.  And the lights are amazing.  They're just like the best studio lights you've ever seen in your entire life.  And they're all over the room.  How many lights are in here, 50. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  I want to say there are 32. DONA SARKAR:  Thirty-two. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  Yeah.  So basically, and that's split across the foreground and the background.  And so the reason we have the background so far back is just because we want to make sure that the light bouncing off of that wall doesn't sort of come back in and make everyone here in the capture area more green. DONA SARKAR:  That's right.  There are so many cameras pointed right here at the center stage.  How many cameras did you say again. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  A hundred and six cameras. DONA SARKAR:  Wow. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  Yeah. DONA SARKAR:  That's a lot of cameras SPENCER REYNOLDS:  They're all over.  I mean, they're 360 and they're even up top. DONA SARKAR:  They are up top, yeah. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  And so yeah, half of them are color, half of them are infrared. You'll see this little box right here.  This is actually an infrared emitter out of the original Kinect. DONA SARKAR:  Oh, that is interesting.  Yeah, we've said that, HoloLens is Kinect shrunken down, on your head, advanced. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  Exactly, yeah. DONA SARKAR:  Yeah, and we're seeing it actually right now. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  So what's fun about this is this puts out just a really nice infrared star field speckle pattern onto the performers, and that's what the infrared cameras are looking for.  They look at that pattern of dots, and then they can use that to sort of reconstruct the 3D shape of the person or the object that's out here. DONA SARKAR:  So when you had the zombie in here, what was that like?  Ned. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  Ned. DONA SARKAR:  Ned. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  Yeah, Ned's the best.  We love Ned.  Ned's pretty fun. DONA SARKAR:  Everyone, that's a zombie on a treadmill. Is there anything you think our audience should know that I haven't prosecuted you about in this amazing green room. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  I mean, really it's just we now have these stages, they're open.  They're open to the public for projects.  And if you're interested in learning more, like we do have a website that you can just search for Microsoft mixed reality capture studio, and there's a website that's now actually out there that people can find us. And we have several research papers that have sort of been announced over the years, and we've sort of released them and not really broadcast them.  So you'll find lots of fun links and just examples of things we've captured and groups that we've worked with, and also we'll just have a lot more projects coming up in the future that we're announcing through that page. DONA SARKAR:  So you actually have mixed reality capture as a service. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  Mm-hmm. DONA SARKAR:  That's kind of amazing. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  Yeah. DONA SARKAR:  That is fabulous. Thank you so much for letting us crash this space - SPENCER REYNOLDS:  Thank you. DONA SARKAR:  -- and showing us where all the zombie magic happens. SPENCER REYNOLDS:  This is the spot. JASON HOWARD:  There's no limit to the kinds of content we will see in mixed reality in the coming months and years.  It's going to be exciting to see what developers and designers come up with for this new technology. Thanks for listening to part two of our series on mixed reality.  If you liked this episode, subscribe on your favorite podcast app and share it with your friends.  And be sure to join us next time on the Windows Insider Podcast.  Thanks, Insiders. NARRATION:  Our program today was produced by Microsoft Production Studios. The Insider team includes Tyler Ahn, Michelle Paison, and Amelia Greim. Our website is Support for the Windows Insider podcast comes from Microsoft, empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Moral support and inspiration comes from Ninja Cat, reminding us to have fun and pursue our passions. Thanks, as always, to our programs cofounders, Dona Sarkar and Jeremiah Marble. Join us next month with more stories from Windows Insiders. END
1/24/201829 minutes, 57 seconds
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Mixed Reality Part 1: Microsoft

Over the next two episodes, the Windows Insider podcast explores all things mixed reality. In part 1, we chat with the Hololens team about design elements in Windows Mixed Reality and how developers can get started creating immersive experiences. We also hear how virtual reality enhances social life and creates community with people from all over the world. Find out more about Windows Mixed Reality here:   Episode transcript ALEX KIPMAN (from video):  Now we're standing together at the threshold of the next revolution of computing.  Now, the thing that excites me about this revolution is that computers will empower us to renegotiate our very contract with reality, giving us the capability to transcend time, space, and devices In this revolution we will immerse ourselves in virtual worlds of our choosing, and we'll be able to accomplish impossible things.  And we'll be able to do all of this while creating lasting memories with the people that we love Our very sense of reality is set to be transformed as we enter this new era of computing, the era of mixed reality JASON HOWARD:  That's Alex Kipman, Technical Fellow here at Microsoft, delivering the keynote at a recent event where he unveiled the company's vision for mixed reality And as you can tell from that clip, his vision is a bold one.  Microsoft's plan for mixed reality is nothing short of transforming the way people interact with the physical and digital worlds But let's back up for a second.  What is mixed reality, and what will it enable us to do? Welcome to the Windows Insider Podcast where we explore all things Windows, the Insider community, and beyond I'm your host, Jason Howard. You're listening to Episode 10, the first of a two-part series where we'll explore mixed reality Microsoft has been a pioneer in mixed reality, also known as MR, starting with the groundbreaking launch of HoloLens in 2015.  The HoloLens is the world's first untethered holographic computer that enables people to have experiences that blend both the physical and digital worlds To learn about recent developments in MR I've invited a couple experts from the HoloLens team to the podcast today BECKY HARUYAMA:  My name is Becky Haruyama, and I am a Principal Designer for the Windows Mixed Reality Engineering Team. And what I've been focusing on most recently is the customer experience in the physical Microsoft stores where people who are going out and looking at what is this Windows Mixed Reality, we have design and experience for them to kind of better understand why they should invest in this KATHERINE HARRIS:  Yeah, and I'm Kat Harris.  I am also on the Windows design team, but I am a developer and I work mainly with our open source toolkits that we provide to developers to help them really dive into working with our headsets, and making very high quality, cool, new experiences and new tools for their companies or bringing their ideas to life JASON HOWARD:  So Becky, let me ask you, what is your definition of mixed reality? BECKY HARUYAMA:  So we are familiar with the physical world.  We live in it every day.  It's made out of atoms.  It's things that you can touch.  And then there is this digital world that is made out of pixels.  And mixed reality is the blending of those two realities together And so while that is still really abstract, if you start thinking about augmented reality and virtual reality, those are actually under the spectrum, the umbrella term of mixed reality So augmented reality is when you have digital artifacts in your physical world, so you can see your environment, you can move around inside of it, and there are digital artifacts that are around.  And there's different kind of fidelities of that And then of course on the virtual reality side your environment is completely digital. And there's not really like a hard edge line, it's more of a blending of people, places, and things.  And so you could have a fully digital person in a fully physical location or physical place.  And so it's really like Alex Kipman talks about this dial, the mixer, that kind of mixes people, places, and things between augmented reality and virtual reality.  So there is no boundary between the two, it's really a mixture of those three characteristics under the umbrella of mixed reality JASON HOWARD:  So Kat, your work is focused on enabling developers to create mixed reality experiences.  What are some inspiring things you've seen people do with this new technology KATHERINE HARRIS:  A lot of different things.  What's great about mixed reality is that it's kind of an open platform for a bunch of different industries to kind of jump into.  You have the medical industry, you have education, you have training people.  And it's this new exploratory like medium of giving content to people and kind of training their brains or delivering that content in a different way that they've never really experienced before And so we're enabling developers now to create new experiences that we would have never realized ourselves.  Just being in the tech industry we're kind of in our own little bubble.  But getting to share this technology with a bunch of different people allows them to create some really cool things I met a woman last week actually who was working in robotics, and she was using the HoloLens to control multiple robots and like control where it was going.  And I was asking her, like, oh, that's so amazing. She's like, yeah, what would be really cool eventually is to be able to have a counterpart application in immersive reality, and have the headsets where people could experience like what the robot was experiencing perhaps.  And that way you have one person controlling it with the HoloLens, and another person experiencing what the robot is experiencing JASON HOWARD:  Wow KATHERINE HARRIS:  Yeah, exactly.  I was like, oh my gosh, that's so cool, I want -- I want that application now BECKY HARUYAMA:  Tell him about what that event was KATHERINE HARRIS:  Oh yeah.  So last week, we had an event with women in VR.  We invited a bunch of women creators who had HoloLens out in the field in LA, New York, Paris, and had them all come in for a two-day workshop to kind of introduce them to the new headsets, as well as showcase their awesome HoloLens applications So there was about nine or ten different applications that people were showing off.  One of them was a museum application called HoloStoria where museums could use it, and you can have 3D assets, place them around your museum, scale them up, add 2D information to also display to the user. And you didn't need to know anything about programming to use it.  So you could give it to curators and stuff, and they could just easily go around and create their museum add-ons or extensions to their physical locations And a couple other fun ones, there was one where you defend kittens from aliens attacking.  So that's more on the gaming side One person was using AI to train a dragon.  Think of a Tamagotchi, but with a dragon that could interact with your physical world.  So it knew where walls were, it knew where the ground was, it could fly and burrow and avoid stuff, and you could interact with it, give it commands We also had like art installations where you could see a stage and interact with your friends and see this art installation come to life Muralize is a very popular application where you take your Instagram feed or any Instagram photo and put it on a wall, pin it there, and then you can actually have paints and stuff and paint the wall with the headset on, so you can see your art.  So it's helping artists create in a new way that I would have never been able to come up with BECKY HARUYAMA:  And this whole thing was kind of identifying people out in the wild who are creating amazing things on HoloLens, and then the effort was helping them kind of port these experiences over to Windows Mixed Reality immersive headsets, just to kind of enable them to have broader reach JASON HOWARD:  So it sounds like developers obviously they have their hands on this, they are doing great things already.  What are some of the key things that, Kat, you and your team are doing to enable developers to have a good experience in this space KATHERINE HARRIS:  Yeah, there's a bunch of things that we're trying to do to meet developers where they are So we have a repository on GitHub called the Holo Toolkit.  And it's a toolkit of assets and scripts that developers can use with the engine Unity.  It's a game engine to use simulations or create 3D environments. And using those scripts and the toolkit they can easily get started with the basic foundations of how do you do spatial mapping, how would one do like hand gesture for tapping or gaze.  And so the scripts are already given to them JASON HOWARD:  Let's talk about some of the design elements in Windows Mixed Reality.  Becky, can you tell us about the considerations you and your team had during development BECKY HARUYAMA:  We really wanted to make sure that we had content that would be interesting to people who are gamers, people who are not gamers, men and women, different ages.  And so we had that as a goal And then we were also looking at the Cliff House, which is our kind of, quote/unquote, "home" in mixed reality.  It's the environment that you cruise around when you're inside the headset.  And we looked at the design of the quote/unquote "architecture," and there are different spaces in the Cliff House And so we looked at what we call these different psychological fields or what are the things that you do in these different types of rooms or these different kind of locations.  So we have a back patio.  It's really beautiful.  It's very relaxing.  You're looking out over Mt. Rainier.  You can go outside and there's birds chirping.  So the psychological field for that is relax and dream And then we have a studio which is more your typical kind of office studio space.  And that's more for creativity and productivity And then we have the deck which overlooks the water.  There are these floating islands.  We like to have a little bit of fantasy in with our reality.  And that one's more aspirational.  It's more like what's next for me.  I'm about to decide what I'm going to do with my life.  And so that room is learn and discover And then we have the theatre, which is this really amazing, huge space that is where you have your games and your movies and it's more about like escaping and playing So we kind of had that as our organizing principles for the way we wanted the demo to unfold.  We looked at what content we needed in each of those locations to kind of ensure that we would have an experience that would really resonate with a wide group of people JASON HOWARD:  Can you tell us a little bit about the history of the Cliff House and why is that the first place you land in the Windows Mixed Reality world? BECKY HARUYAMA:  So one of the things that I think is really interesting when we talk about mixed reality is realizing that on our desktop our 2D screen when you go to the Start Menu, like that's kind of your center of gravity, like that's how you go back to it, it's how you move around, and that is kind of kind of the paradigm that we use So when you think about transitioning into a spatial analogy, and it's actually the thing that we're most familiar with in the world.  Like we were born and we move around in the world, and it is a spatial interface, it is a spatial environment So when you think about what is a home, it's something that everyone can relate to, hopefully, that it is this place that is kind of central to who you are and to what you do. And architects and space planners really leverage these constructs that we're familiar with around what situation am I going to do in this room  and in this room and in this room, and then you design kind of a place around it So having it be a home really seemed to make the most sense, because we wanted it to be familiar, and we infused some like fantasy into it, like I mentioned before with the floating islands.  So it really is like this aspirational, amazing place that we wanted people to instantly understand how to move around within it But it's not your normal home.  Like there are no doors, there are no windows.  You can hop up onto the roof, which is my favorite place to go KATHERINE HARRIS:  Same BECKY HARUYAMA:  Yeah, it's so fun.  It's got the best view And so it just seemed to make the most sense We weren't going to do like a forest.  Ah, I'm lost in the forest, you know, or like you're on a beach.  Well, okay, that's fine, but we wanted it to have a certain level of utility.  We wanted it to be a place that was comfortable, and we wanted it to be neutral enough in the sense so that you could personalize it in the way which you organize all the things that matter the most to you, the apps that you like the most And it was actually inspired by a really beautiful modern house that was built in the 1950s, I believe, it was the Farnsworth House.  If you look it up online, it's this really beautiful, kind of super simple, streamlined house, had a lot of glass, really simple lines.  And the architect built it for his client to kind of support her hobbies, which were playing violin, reading poetry, and looking at nature.  And so it was this really amazing kind of inside-out space that when everyone looks at this picture, it's like, oh, I really want to live there, that's like the most amazing house.  And so that was a lot of the inspiration for the Cliff House And we picked the external environment to be inspired by our beautiful Northwest, and that's why we have Mt. Rainer there also JASON HOWARD:  Nice.  I actually didn't know that about the history.  That's kind of cool that it's based off of an actual house that exists BECKY HARUYAMA:  Yeah, well, a lot of architecture is this really interesting -- you know, you look for inspiration, and then you kind of apply it to the goals that you're trying to facilitate I mean, I think the most important thing is we wanted people to be able to identify with it, and to then make it their own.  And so that was one of our main goals JASON HOWARD:  So to the point of personalization and making Cliff House your own, right, do either of you have your own Cliff House that you've designed and customized and - KATHERINE HARRIS:  Oh yeah, yeah.  Becky, you go first BECKY HARUYAMA:  Yeah, okay.  So I have spent a ton of time in the headset kind of creating my own environment.  And my favorite thing was when I put up the photos app, and put my own personal photos in, so it turned into like a slideshow.  And so I'm hanging out in there, and I'm doing my self-hosting and kind of figuring out how we were going to create the demo for the retail stores.  But then there's my family right there with me. And then we had kind of an internal contest of who could like make the craziest Cliff House.  And some of the other designers made these amazing -- like they take the holograms and they would like make -- I don't know, there was like a hundred flamingos or monkeys, I don't remember what it was, or they'd like take the shopping bag and make it huge, or, you know, it's really fun, because there's a lot of scalability.  You can play with the scale of things in a way that you can't do in the quote/unquote "real world."  And so like playing with the holograms, and then putting your apps in the way that you want to, and like what's on the roof and -- okay, Kat, you go KATHERINE HARRIS:  My favorite thing is to make the Netflix app as big as possible, so I have like an 80-foot screen BECKY HARUYAMA:  Is that on the roof KATHERINE HARRIS:  No.  So there's like the media room, right?  Well, there's a button on the side of the media room where it's just like a wooden room, but then when you hit that button, it turns into outer space.  Or like not outer space, like the stars JASON HOWARD:  Okay KATHERINE HARRIS:  And it's beautiful.  And I just like watching my new Netflix shows, and then seeing this beautiful skyline.  And then it's like Netflix but then it's all my other media as well.  I have a bunch of 360 video apps on the side, and then I have a bunch of games on the roof of the house, so I'll just pop up to the roof, and it's like 360, just all my favorite games. And then, of course, I use my holograms to like make it my own.  So I have like a little dog hologram, a little cat hologram, just lots of pets and animals.  Since I don't own any, I can have hologram ones JASON HOWARD:  And no mess to clean up KATHERINE HARRIS:  And no mess to clean up.  I don't have to like feed them and stuff or forget to feed them, because that's why I don't have a pet, because I would -- they would die.  I've killed a cactus.  Never mind.  That's another story JASON HOWARD:  If you're ready to see the Cliff House for yourself, just go to a Microsoft Store for a free demo.  You'll also be able to check out the different immersive headsets that are available now.  I've tried it, and it's a ton of fun.  Not to mention the fact that I scored Spartan the first time I played the new Halo mixed reality edition. Another exciting development in MR is the opportunity for socializing.  This immersive technology can give you the chance to meet people from all over the world, attend live events in far off lands, and play interactive games Here to tell us more about the social side of MR is Katie Kelly from AltSpaceVR, one of the leading social platforms for virtual reality So AltSpaceVR provides an environment for people to meet up in virtual reality.  Why is it important to have social spaces in VR KATIE KELLY:  I think the better question is, why is it important to have social spaces in general.  And I think in virtual reality having a place where you can hang out with other people is just a natural evolution of where we are with communication technology So you have Skype and you have videoconferencing and you have a phone, and we've gotten really tethered to these devices where you are only communicating through speech or looking directly at somebody on a Skype call.  But you miss out on those things that we do when we're watching TV together, those natural interactions that you have when you're doing something together So what we think is that VR is the natural evolution of communication, is that you are going to have shared experiences with each other instead of being tethered by just your voice or through eye contact on a videoconference JASON HOWARD:  So can you describe a little more what it's like being there in virtual reality just hanging out KATIE KELLY:  Sure.  When you go into AltSpaceVR, you don't know what you're exactly going to get, but our biggest goal is to get you to laugh, hopefully in the first five minutes So you can come into AltSpaceVR and you will first probably pop into our campfire.  It's our communal space where there are people hanging out, and we have marshmallows and we have a forest landscape and a roaring fire, and that's where people go to hang out And so when you go in and there's going to be somebody there, they'll probably say hi, and you'll say hi back, and then you'll realize that you are talking from inside your headset, probably in your living room, hopefully with clothes on, to a random person that might be in Norway or might be in Sweden or might be in California or somewhere in the states, and then you just start talking And if you don't just start that conversation, we have lots of things for you to do to start to encourage those interactions.  Our main goal is to get you to meet somebody new, and to have a good time, and hopefully make a friend And so we have games that you can play, we have dungeons and dragons, and we have chess, and we have Cards Against Humanity is our most popular, of course JASON HOWARD:  That's a fun game KATIE KELLY:  It's called Holograms Against Humanity in AltSpaceVR And you can go explore different environments.  We have a full Mayan maze that will take you 20 minutes to get through, and you'll make some interesting friends along the way We have a disc golf course, and mostly we have events.  We're really known for our events.  You can come in at any point and see a community calendar of all the events that will be happening throughout the day or the week.  And it spans the gamut from meetups to comedy shows to news broadcasts to live streams, our rocket launches.  We do a live stream of SpaceX rocket launches.  Those are some of our most popular live streams Because we've found that people want to experience these pulse moments together with other people.  So what's a better way of doing that than putting on your headset, you're alone in your room in maybe rural Nebraska, and all of a sudden you're in a room watching something really cool with a bunch of people that could potentially be new friends JASON HOWARD:  So as an individual, the experience, I put on my headset, and, you know, I get logged in, so to speak, right?  What do I see of other people?  Am I seeing actual images of them?  Can they upload photos of themselves?  Is it just like a representation, is it some sort of avatar KATIE KELLY:  So right now you're an avatar.  And we have a range of different avatars that you can customize, mostly with different colors for different robot avatars, and then we have a male and a female avatar with a couple different clothing styles, different races, different hair colors.  And so that's where we are right now with our avatar system.  And so when you go into a room, you see a bunch of other avatars But what's interesting, if you haven't tried VR, is it's really hard to explain how present you actually feel with other people.  My father has a Gear VR that I got him years ago when I first started at AltSpace so that we could experience what it was like hanging out with somebody you knew in VR.  And he's always a white avatar with red stripes, with his hands behind his back.  But after probably, I don't know, 15 minutes, I completely just associated that avatar as my father.  At one point, he switched avatars, and I was like, no, dad, you've got to back, now you're just in a different body.  You were you when you were that avatar And we found that across the board that people really start to identify with the avatar that they are, and when I got into AltSpace and I see my friends there now, now that I have friends in VR, which is really strange to say, I recognize people based on their avatar.  I'm like, Lea, hey, how's it going, and Peroxide, how's it going, so nice to see you in your red avatar JASON HOWARD:  So it sounds like people from around the world are participating and joining in and getting together.  Can you tell us a little bit about the people that are participating?  Do you have any information about like the diversity of users kind of around the world KATIE KELLY:  So our events are a testing ground for us to try a lot of things to see what people are going to like in VR.  So we do a lot of things.  I have done the first yoga class in virtual reality.  I have held the first meditation meetup with our amazing previous community manager, Lisa Kotecki.  And we've just tried to supply a lot of different things to see what people like to do And so one idea was to do meetups, and they've become really successful.  So I did an LGBT meetup, and we had a good couple hundred people show up, and we talked about what it was like being gay around the world One guy was from South Africa talking about being gay down there.  A couple in Australia was talking about fighting for gay rights.  A man in Turkey was talking about having to prove that he was gay, because he couldn't join the military because he was gay, but they didn't believe him And then you had a girl in rural Nebraska that was 16, and she couldn't actually say the word gay because her family could hear her, because she was still in her family's house.  So she messaged, she wrote a little text message to one of my coworkers that was in the space I was in.  You have to use your imagination a little bit, but you feel like you're in an actual space with other people And he messaged me and said, "Hey, there's this girl here that wants to talk and tell us her experience, but she can't say the word gay.  What do we do? And so I asked her, I said, what's something you just love to talk about?  And she said chocolate.  I said, okay, every time you want to say the word gay, say the word chocolate She told us about the first time she ever ate chocolate, who she liked to share her chocolate with, all the different kinds of chocolate that she liked.  And then three weeks later, she came out to her family, because she felt like she had her community in VR that she saw once a week, and she didn't feel as different as she had felt before And those stories are happening over and over again, but those kind of moments where you wouldn't be able to find your community out in your neighborhood, you can now put on a headset and potentially find it from anybody around the world JASON HOWARD:  That seems like it takes away some of that isolation, and so that you can connect with other people that are going through whatever particular experience they may be seeing or feeling or thoughts or topics or anything really KATIE KELLY:  Exactly. Another example, we partnered with NBC last year to do a virtual democracy plaza.  So we did a recreation of Rockefeller Plaza in VR that you could wander around, go to the ice rink.  And then they brought in some of their amazing talent, Al Roker, Chuck Todd, Steve Kornacki, to do live newscasts in VR But what they also did was they brought in live streams the presidential debates into VR.  So we did all four of them. And this sounds like it could go wrong in so many ways, right?  Like you're inviting a very polarized nation and world to come hang out in virtual reality and watch this live together. But what we found was that people in general when they felt like they were really there with other people, they talked, they communicated.   They weren't leaving mean messages on YouTube, they were actually having a conversation with somebody.  So even while they disagreed, they were talking The first day after the elections, results came in, I held a casual gathering in VR asking people to talk about their thoughts.  And we had Republicans, we had Democrats, we had people from outside the U.S. talking.  And after about an hour, my heart felt so much better, because the main thing that people kept saying is, hey, we're in this together And I took off my headset after that moment and felt like I had gotten out of my echo chamber that I see on so many other social media accounts, and felt like, okay, I had connected with the people that I didn't necessarily know or have a face to, and I felt like we got each other.  And that's what I've found in AltSpaceVR all the time JASON HOWARD:  So that's interesting that you put it that way, because when you don't have some of that personal connection, you end up with a lot of what you see in social media, be it Twitter or Facebook or wherever, where when you don't know the person and it's just a flat 2D image and it's a wall of text that you're scrolling through, it's easy to sit behind your keyboard and type something that you may not necessarily say or not say it the same way if you were face-to-face with somebody or if you were in a group of people And it sounds like having this extra layer of feeling like you're there, even though you may not physically be there, it kind of takes that down and kind of resets people back to a moment of, hey, I'm actually talking to other people instead of just adding to a wall of text KATIE KELLY:  Definitely.  And I think what's important, too, is to acknowledge the work that the AltSpaceVR community has also done to make it a really welcoming place.  I don't think it's just you're in VR now, you feel like a better person. I think we've worked, one, really hard to make sure that we are really welcoming to a diverse group of people.  So we have live in VR customer support all the time.  We have our community support representatives that are always there in the campfire, a living, breathing person in VR.  I can't say that enough, because we're probably the first people to have that always there.  And they are our first person that you talk to, first person to kind of intro you to the product if you have any questions going on.  But also if you have any troubles, if any problems are arising, you can go and talk to a real person and say, hey, I'm having this issue And then on top of that we've put in some really amazing tools so that you feel like you have control over your environment.  So if I am talking to you and your mic is really loud or maybe you're saying something I don't want to hear, I can mute you.  And then that mutes you for the rest of the experience until I unmute you.  I can also block you if I don't want to see you anymore.  That will remove you from my experience, and will remove me from your experience.  And then also when you block somebody, too, you can report like why did I block this person. And then you have the live 24-hour support.  But then you also have a space bubble.  And this one's really important I think just in VR because it's really easy for an avatar to get so close to you that you feel they're actually invading your personal space.  It feels really uncomfortable.  And so automatically when you come into AltSpaceVR, you have a space bubble around you that if somebody gets too close they disappear and their handle disappears.  And then if you want to get closer, like if you have a couple friends, people love like cheek kisses in AltSpaceVR and fist bumps and hugs. There's this one woman, Clair, that lives in London.  She's in AltSpaceVR a lot.  And every time I see her like she wants to give me a hug.  And I get so excited, I'm like, Clair, and we hug, and it feels like I'm getting a real hug by this woman from around the world So you should have that control, too, to be able to have those more intimate moments when you want, but if you don't, you have some tools at your disposal so you can take care of yourself JASON HOWARD:  So earlier, you mentioned the concept of an echo chamber.  And a lot of times that gets associated with like political thoughts and things like that.  But if you expand upon it a little bit, you get to the whole like your social bubble of like the things you surround yourself with, right, the spaces you choose to participate in So how are you like creating inclusive experiences for all kinds of people?  It sounds like you're already taking steps down that path KATIE KELLY:  I think our events is where we start.  So you can think of an event almost as the easiest way to create VR content, especially if you're not a developer.  And also we should talk later, too, about all the developer tools we have. But specifically with events if you are just a random person, again maybe living in rural Nebraska, not to pick on rural Nebraska, but you can go into VR, set up an event, and you automatically have a way to talk to a lot of different people. And our community has been creating most of the events that we've had, especially the last couple months.  And those have included things like book clubs and poetry meetups and writing workshops for NaNoWriMo last month.  And we've had yoga classes and meditation and talent shows, talk shows.  Talk shows have become really popular where you kind of have the original feeling of YouTube.  You have these people that recognize the power of the platform, and they were basically unknown before, but now they're creating a presence in VR This amazing woman, Vivian, if you ever come into VR, you'll see her show.  And she comes on, and she just puts together this amazing show where she'll have games and trivia and invite people from the audience to come and participate But we're creating a new medium, and it's really fascinating.  And what that goes back to when it comes to diversity is that our events aren't games, they aren't attracting just a gamer audience that usually skews male.  We're attracting a wide range of people because we aren't a game, we're an experience So if you come into AltSpaceVR and you want to go to an event, you might go to a meditation event or there's actually a slumber party I think on Monday night.  And women and men are welcome, but it's run by a bunch of women that wanted to have an event where they could connect with other women and watch movies and TV and just hang out So that's what makes me really excited about the diversity possibility of VR is that AltSpaceVR is showing that there's a lot of people out there that want to experience VR.  They just don't necessarily know where to go, and AltSpaceVR seems to be a great place for them to start JASON HOWARD:  Yeah.  So having this type of space, and I know we touched on a moment about ago about muting and blocking people, things like that, right?  And as we mentioned before, on traditional social platforms there's the whole concept of trolling and annoying people and people that are out to in essence create an unwelcoming environment or they try to take over conversations, things like that, right?  Have you seen this as a problem in AltSpaceVR as of now?  Do you expect it to be a problem into the future KATIE KELLY:  It's a problem in VR in general.  It's a problem in real life in general So one thing that my team spends a lot of time thinking about is how do we try to address those problems as soon as possible, and give users the chance to address it themselves, which is why our mute and our block and our bubble are so important, and why are in-VR 24/7 support is really important So what we found, one, when you come into social VR I do think you're more likely to feel like you are around real people.  So I think it makes it a little bit harder to cause as much grief as maybe some other social platforms, because you want to fit in.  You feel like there's a little bit of a culture that you're joining, and you want to be a part of it But if you don't and you want to cause havoc, you'll figure out ways to.  So we want to make sure that when that happens, we can remove that person as soon as possible or at least have the users have the tools they need to remove them from their own experience JASON HOWARD:  So there's obviously some guidelines in place as for if there's a person who's continually disruptive or creating an unwelcoming environment, things of that nature, that there are consequences to those actions KATIE KELLY:  Yeah, we have a list of community standards that are very important to us that include everything from respecting other people and being inclusive, but also being mindful that we are inviting people from around the world to be in this space together, so we need to work together to make sure that everybody feels welcome and kind of know the rules JASON HOWARD:  So in the opening, right, you mentioned that AltSpaceVR had been acquired by Microsoft.  What was that like?  Like how did that happen KATIE KELLY:  It has been a roller coaster I think for our team the last couple of months, but it's also been really exciting, especially where we ended up. We thought we were closing down in June, and we closed up shop and left AltSpaceVR running.  We're able to keep everything there.  We actually had a goodbye party planned that our users - JASON HOWARD:  Wait, wait, wait, wait, like closing  as in closing the doors, ending the service potentially?  Like, ow, okay KATIE KELLY:  Yeah, we got to a point where that was unfortunately the reality kind of where we were at.  And we had a goodbye party planned, and a bunch of our users showed up.  And it was really heart-wrenching.  But people on my team just kept fighting for the service, and telling people like why this mattered. And then we connected with the Microsoft team, and they saw why it mattered, and they really grew passionate about what we created, and lo and behold, we were acquired by Microsoft JASON HOWARD:  Wow.  That's a good thing, right?  I mean, with the good work that you're doing, and obviously the plans that you have for the future, it's nice that the doors didn't get closed. But anytime there's an acquisition, things seem to change a bit.  How do you see this particular acquisition changing the direction of the company KATIE KELLY:  The thing that I've loved the most that I've heard from the team that we now work with at Microsoft over and over again is that they want AltSpaceVR to stay AltSpaceVR, and that they in a lot of ways are coming to us and our team to kind of find out about like what we did right, and what we've learned for now So in a lot of ways we feel really respected as a team, and really excited about the potential to use the resources, the massive amount of resources that Microsoft has to improve the experience in AltSpaceVR, grow our community, make more exciting events and experiences, and yeah, just grow this thing that we like passionately spent like the last couple years working on JASON HOWARD:  So you mentioned earlier developer tools as part of this platform.  Do you want to highlight on that a little bit KATIE KELLY:  AltSpaceVR's SDK community is a bunch of really creative, really scrappy people that with three.js and A-frame can build their own experiences and environments in AltSpaceVR You can go to and check out our developer community and join our Slack, and you'll basically be introduced to a lot of people that are just doing some of the coolest stuff in VR that I've ever seen So in AltSpaceVR now you can go and you can check out a desert environment that somebody made with a tiki bar.  This amazing woman Faye made a karaoke room with posters that she designed all over the walls, and rainbow wallpaper and rainbow floors So basically, you can kind of let your creativity go wild, and using our SDK make your own VR experiences JASON HOWARD:  So are there any community imposed limitations on what they can create?  Like is there any content that's, for lack of a better word, almost forbidden or not welcome KATIE KELLY:  We think about ourselves really similar to I think how we think about the Internet.  So a space in AltSpaceVR is really similar to a web page.  And we think that people should be able to make whatever web content they want and bring it into AltSpaceVR That doesn't mean we're going to allow our general community to go and see it.  So you always have to go through at least one step to have your content on our listed events page.  But you will have a URL that you can share with your friends.  So if you make a room that you're really excited about, and just want to share it with your community, by all means. And you also have the chance to have private events and private spaces, and you can make it friends only So there's a lot of different ways that you can kind of customize like who you want to share your content with, but we are going to be following our community standards and our guidelines for anything that the general community is going to see JASON HOWARD:  So as part of those standards are there age limitations, anything that need to be thought of before somebody potentially tries to join the community KATIE KELLY:  AltSpaceVR is 13 and over.  And then we have content that we will put warnings on the banner of the tile image on the event page that will tell you whether it's appropriate for 17-plus or more for adults We are a community for adults, and we have some amazing like 13 to 17 year olds in general, but in general when you come to AltSpaceVR you're going to feel like you're around other adults, and it's something that we tried to make the community really awesome for that JASON HOWARD:  So we've talked a lot about the social aspect and people interacting, but more to the broad picture like what do you think the future of social VR experience is? KATIE KELLY:  The future of social VR I think is really up to the imagination of what people can make there.  I do think that VR in general is going to be social, no matter what, in some capacity. And so I think that the future is just becoming a place where anybody can go meet, interact, share content, do cool events, go do other VR experiences, but eventually you're going to want to do it with your friends and the people that you know.  So we think that the future of VR is social, to say it so bluntly JASON HOWARD:  Well, I've got my mom on Facebook, so maybe I can send her a headset and get her to come join one of these types of spaces at some point KATIE KELLY:  You should.  It's really fun JASON HOWARD:  So just as a quick reminder, how can the listeners join the AltSpaceVR community KATIE KELLY:  You can join AltSpaceVR by going to or go to any store on your Oculus headset, on your Samsung Gear, on your Daydream, or through Google Play, and you can look up AltSpaceVR and download us for whatever platform you have.  And if you have a mixed reality headset, you can go to the Steam VR Bridge and find AltSpaceVR and download that.  And we really hope to see you in VR sometime JASON HOWARD:  The acquisition of AltSpaceVR is just one of the ways Microsoft is working on a catalog of immersive experiences.  From games to travel to videos, there are so many ways MR can enhance our work and social lives We're going to continue exploring the subject of mixed reality in January's episode.  Join us next month to find out how the traditional media industry is incorporating virtual reality, and we'll find out more about the technical process for turning people and animals into holograms.  You won't want to miss it Make sure you never miss an episode of the Windows Insider podcast by subscribing wherever you get your podcasts.  And if you liked this episode, be sure to review and rate the podcast so others can discover it as well Thanks, Insiders.  Join us next time on the Windows Insider Podcast NARRATOR:  Our program today was produced by Microsoft Production Studios.  The Insider team includes Tyler An (ph), Michelle Paisan (ph), and Amelia Grime (ph) Our website is Support for the Windows Insider Podcast comes from Microsoft, empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more Moral support and inspiration comes from Ninja Cat, reminding us to have fun and pursue our passions Thanks, as always, to our programs cofounders, Donna Sarkar (ph), and Jeremiah Marble (ph) Join us next month with more stories from Windows Insiders END
12/13/201738 minutes, 38 seconds
Episode Artwork

Making Technology Accessible

In honor of International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3rd, the Windows Insider Podcast team explores advancements in inclusive technology. For decades, Microsoft has been creating products and services to serve people of all abilities, and in recent years the company has made a stronger commitment to this goal with the appointment of Chief Accessibility Officer, Jenny Lay-Flurrie. In this episode, we chat with Jenny about the future of inclusive tech, and we learn how feedback from users (and Windows Insiders!) is shaping Microsoft’s efforts. To find out more about Microsoft’s commitment to accessibility and inclusion, visit   Episode transcript: NARRATOR:  Welcome to the Windows Insider where we explore all things Windows, the Insider community and beyond I'm your host, Jason Howard (ph).  You are listening to Episode 9, and this month's theme is accessibility JASON HOWARD:  Wait a minute, that's not me.  That was the Windows 10 Narrator.  And it's more than just a podcast gimmick, the Narrator feature helps people who are blind or have low vision navigate their computers by reading what's on screen When you think about how much of what we do in the world relies on what can be read, you really start to understand how this technology could impact the lives of millions of people More and more accessibility features are built into the DNA of Microsoft services and products.  These features deliver on Microsoft's mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.  That includes ensuring people of all abilities can participate in life, work, and society Today, we're going to talk to someone who's taking the ideals of accessibility and inclusion and putting them into action.  Please meet Microsoft's Chief Accessibility Officer, Jenny Lay-Flurrie So here you are the Chief Accessibility Officer. JENNY LAY-FLURRIE:  I am JASON HOWARD:  What does that mean JENNY LAY-FLURRIE:  Basically, it means that my job is to drive for a great experience for customers with disabilities and employees with disabilities, and also really pursue the concept of inclusive design. So it just means I'm really thinking about a section of our customer base that's pretty big, and how we can ensure that we're delivering great products, great services, great hiring process, to ensure that we're really inclusive JASON HOWARD:  A few years ago, accessibility could have been considered a side project at many companies, but things have changed, at least at Microsoft.  Now it's becoming an integral part of our company culture and product development.  Can you tell us how that happened JENNY LAY-FLURRIE:  Yeah, it's kind of cool what's going on, and I'm loving being part of it.  But actually accessibility has been part of Microsoft's strategy for well over actually 20 years.  But we've definitely in the last couple of years decided to really kick it up a notch And by kicking it up a notch, it's just really leaning into the opportunity that we have.  You know, there's a billion people in the world with disabilities, a billion plus.  These are our customers, our friends, our peers, our everything.  And there's a whole suite of innovation that can come from really designing products and building products that include disability So we invested in some resources across the company, across our product divisions, including my lovely team, and really decided to go after that opportunity to build better products, and to really think about how we were hiring talent across the spectrum of disability as well JASON HOWARD:  So Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella has a son who's in a wheelchair because of cerebral palsy, and is paralyzed.  Satya has said in his new book Hit Refresh that having a son with disabilities has made him more empathetic, and that's one of the reasons he's committed to driving accessibility and inclusion at Microsoft.  That explains why the company is working towards some of these accessibility initiatives On a personal level what experience has led you to working in accessibility JENNY LAY-FLURRIE:  It's a great question, and Satya, the book is just it's incredible.  And if you haven't read it, please do.  I mean, Satya is sharing his own personal experiences there.  It's just incredibly powerful I think we've all had a personal journey.  My personal journey, let's just say I would never have predicted that I would be doing this job today.  I mean, I come from a small town on the outskirts of Birmingham in the UK.  I went through mainstream education.  I went to a music college.  I got a classical music degree.  And I thought I was going to be a really cool classical rock star or a music therapist or something in that vein And then I started working in IT, actually in a newspaper in London on the IT help desk, and realized that I dig, I just love problem-solving.  And I thought that was going to be my career was, you know, solving problems with IT and doing a bit of music on the side But all the way through the one stream that I've had all the way through this is that I'm deaf, I'm profoundly deaf.  And my deafness has decreased since I was a child So I went to music college with moderate deafness.  It's slid since then.  And I never, ever -- I mean, I hid  my deafness for many years, wasn't really open about it.  But I think maybe people way wiser and smarter than me could have predicted the path is me realizing that I could really use these skills, and use them to make a difference, not just for me and my friends, but to make a difference seriously in a company like Microsoft So I came to Microsoft 13 years ago.  I came to run technical support, still solving problems, and then about five, six years ago took a risk and changed career, and went to be an individual contributor to change the world for customers with disabilities, and I've never looked back JASON HOWARD:  Wow.  So how does working in this field change the way you see the world JENNY LAY-FLURRIE:  I've worked in different jobs over the years, you know, whether it was support or online advertising for a while.  I've worked in different things.  And I firmly believe that technology has the power to empower.  And I've seen that in different spheres, but I think never more in the work that I do today, which is every day working with peers and friends, seeing how they're leveraging technology and just realizing and appreciating what we can do to make that experience better, whether it's somebody using a wheelchair with limited dexterity manipulating some part of Office, or it's somebody who's blind working through a web page, whether that's our own or someone else's, or me with captioning and how that changes my life and others, and how we can get that more integrated into the fabric of our company So you know, I really do think that it's a really empowering field to work in.  I walk out every day with the same frustrations and same joys as everyone else, but I do have a deep-seated sense that we are making a difference.  And that's the opportunity we have JASON HOWARD:  Well, as you just mentioned Office, Microsoft has developed a wide variety of accessibility features such as Windows 10 Narrator, Office 365's built-in tools for authoring accessible content, things of that nature.  There's even eye tracking technology that enables people who have limited mobility to navigate their PCs using only their eyes Can you tell us about the development of those features?  Did anything come up unnecessary during the R&D research and development cycle JENNY LAY-FLURRIE:  I don't know what you mean.  I don't think anything ever comes up that surprises during an R&D cycle.  (Laughter.)  I can't ever imagine that scenario playing out Always.  And I think at the core if we follow those principles of inclusive design, inclusive design is all about making sure that you design a product that is embedding the feedback of people and experts.  And in our area that's people with disabilities So whenever we're looking, and Office has done incredible job across every single component of Office 365, across every platform, of putting a brand new bar of accessibility out there, and that's anything from PowerPoint to Excel to Sway, right?  If you don't Sway, you should Sway.  And every single componentry has been designed in collaboration with people So that means you do some prototypes, you get them out there, you get a bunch of people in a room, and you say, hey, but have a play, and scenario-led and all that good stuff But yet it's very hard to replicate the experience of someone who's blind or someone with a visual impairment.  The speed at which they are reading the screen, as somebody who's deaf it's very hard for me to comprehend, and it's way faster than we can sign You have to lean into the experiences that you get from people, and you learn the hints and tricks and the keyboard shortcuts are very important.  And if you have tried to go off the standardized path, you need to pull it back in a little bit And just the extra words that we tend to put in, or if we put in alt-text, you know, the words that describe images, and we don't put those in accurately, just how destructive that can be to the overall usability of the experience So I think we've learned a lot along the way, and we've definitely learned a lot with eye control, the new feature in Windows, because that came from a hack actually three years ago, the first hack that I ever got involved in, and it was a guy called Steve Gleason from Louisiana who came to us with a list of beautiful ideas that basically were, hey, Microsoft, can you make my experience better?  He's an NFL player, a Spokane native, Washington State native, but living in Louisiana with his wife and beautiful kid Rivers.  And he was the genesis of a three-year journey through our research division, through Windows division, and many, many more, and many people with ALS here in Seattle that helped us to get eye control into Windows And we're still learning.  It's a beater feature, and we're still learning.  You can't replicate ALS.  It's about hours and hours and hours of sitting with people and understanding how to make sure it's the best experience But yeah, you can now control your mouse with your eyes.  You can type with your eyes using a Windows device with a full Creator's Update.  So it's pretty kickass JASON HOWARD:  That's quite a journey, it seems JENNY LAY-FLURRIE:  Yeah, I do think it's a journey, and I think we'll continue to reiterate.  And that's also why Insiders are so important, right?  We need -- we need people to give us that feedback, what is working, what is not, what can we tweak, what can we improve, what's driving you nuts.  We're only as good as the feedback that we get JASON HOWARD:  I wanted to ask you about how you include people with disabilities in the product development process, but it seems like the Insider programs are a great way to start with that JENNY LAY-FLURRIE:  You know, there's multiple, multiple also ways to give feedback.  There always are in a company this size with as many products as we have The Insiders I cannot promote enough.  I mean, I think it's just a brilliant way to get involved in early stage technology that may be buggy, that may have some funkiness to it, but you have the opportunity to give us feedback knowing that we're listening, and know we're really listening for our customers with disabilities who are using accessible technology.  We want that feedback.  It's gold dust. And you have the chance to shape the next rev, right, of Windows.  There's nothing more powerful than that The same with Office.  You know, there's an Office Insiders program. But there's also other ways.  If you're not too game to install a potential version of Windows that may disrupt the flow a little bit, then there's User Voice.  We have forums there where we're always listening for features.  We're voting them up, voting them down And also you can give feedback within Narrator built-in screen reader So there's plenty, plenty ways to make sure your voice is heard JASON HOWARD:  And now just kind of as a personal note, being on the Windows Insider team, one of the things that when we originally got started, accessibility wasn't necessarily a blocking gate as part of promoting builds from our internal canary and self-host rings into the fast and slow rings. And part of the feedback that we got was we were making it entirely too difficult to get some of the feedback that was extremely important to get during that development cycle.  So especially for the slow ring and more so now into the fast ring accessibility is becoming a blocking gate to help ensure that we don't break that experience for the users who are giving us that type of feedback JENNY LAY-FLURRIE:  I love that.  I'm so excited that the priority of accessibility within Insiders and within our products broadly generally is at that level where, yeah, if we're not cutting it, we're going to stop ship, right?  I mean, it's that important to us.  So yeah, I mean, the advice I get, know your power.  You have huge power to influence the flow of our product set JASON HOWARD:  So along the way obviously there have been many changes of course.  Was there anything that you thought would be an easier problem to solve but proved to be a bit more complex than expected originally JENNY LAY-FLURRIE:  Harder to solve.  You know, I think when you're looking at accessibility across as many products as we have, and we have really five product divisions, and each of our product sets is launching multiple, you know, literally hundreds of products every year and every month and every week, you know, my biggest challenge today is just really making sure that we keep the consistency, we keep prioritizing at this level, and we keep innovating Yeah, there are some brilliant features that have come out of now our emphasis on AI in one of our five divisions that's making an impact in Windows.  In fact, if you're blind and using a screen reader or Narrator, and it comes up in images, it's leveraging AI describing that image and embedding alt-text in and speaking that as part of your experience So no longer are we reliant on everyone to be able to write really good alt-text, right, the descriptions behind these pictures.  We can leverage some of our AI infrastructure. And I'm looking forward to doing that a lot more, that kind of collaboration across the groups, bringing different parts of joy and wisdom from one into the other.  And both Office and Windows are doing amazing work there But yes, it's a broad gig, and the bar is very high, because we do believe that this isn't just about meeting a conformance or compliance, this is about leveraging the power of what is possible with the lens of disability JASON HOWARD:  So the Windows 10 Fall Creator's Update was available through the Insider program months ago.  And the public beta has already launched.  The actual retail release is occurring right now.  And obviously Insiders were able to preview this.  Were there any specific features that showed up in this past development cycle that you've seen in action with real users out in the world? JENNY LAY-FLURRIE:  Eye control we've already mentioned.  That's built into Fall Creator's Update.  It's an early feature.  We're already getting some feedback.  We really want more.  And, you know, that's one that's just going to grow.  You do need a 4C Tobii device in order to leverage the feature.  So yeah, there are a couple of things to think through with eye control if you're looking at that I think the other thing with Fall Creators that I really love are the color filters.  This is a brand new feature set.  But if you think about it, color blindness is huge.  Color blindness affects -- it's around 1 in 9 individuals, and mostly men.  And there's lots of different types of color blindness.  Well, now you can go into your ease of use settings within Windows and you can select one of those filters, and hopefully see Windows in a different way as a result So that's just brilliant innovation, and I've seen some of that out in the wild, and got some really good feedback from folks who are loving it.  But I also think that's a brand new one that I want to make sure people know about and are leveraging.  I was showing a bunch of people yesterday.  And it's amazing how many people, you'll be sitting in a meeting and mention this feature, and I dare you, right, I bet you at least one hand goes up, because it is that prevalent So I really do love the color filters.  I think those are really cool The other one just within Windows I have to mention just Narrator. The Windows team has been really incrementally every release tweaking and performance improvements on Narrator.  They're also now making sure that magnifier speaks with Narrator as well. And if you are using screen readers, just please go and try it out.  I mean, we've really worked on the languages, we've worked on the speed, we've worked on the accuracy and the usability of it. And so it's been incremental.  You know, if you're tracking where we're going, this is probably about third or fourth release with improvements to Narrator.  But I urge you to give it a go.  It's kind of fun JASON HOWARD:  So we mentioned eye tracking technology a couple times, and how it enables people who can't type to both communicate and interact with their PCs.   But at some point, it could be something that we all use.  So how do you see the field of inclusion driving innovation into the future JENNY LAY-FLURRIE:  I look at that journey that we started with eye control, you know, going back to Steve and an e-mail, right?  It just came from an e-mail, right?  That was the genesis of all of our efforts here And then you meet Steve and you fall in love, and you're totally lost, right?  You'll do anything for team Gleason But I think where it's at now is tip of the iceberg as to where it could go.  I've spent some time really looking into eye control, using your eyes to control a device, and there really is limitless potential there for that And then you look at other areas, right, what we can do and what we are doing with captioning.  One of my favorite products is Microsoft Translator.  And we've actually now got an add-in in PowerPoint And what it means is that I can be standing on stage or I can be watching somebody else using PowerPoint, and as long as they're mic'd up pretty well, the words of what they're saying will appear on the screen, automatically captioned onto the screen Now, it in no way replaces the need that I had for my beautiful interpreter sitting to your right or for actual captioning which comes from people using stenographers, using those devices you see in court.  But it's automatic captions that instantly is available, giving me independence, giving me the ability to make a phone call, right, if you think about it, as we start to weave that technology in So what it means is we have the chance not just to level the playing field, we have the chance to advance the playing field. People with disabilities in the U.S. but also more broadly, the unemployment rate is double that of people without disabilities.  And a lot of the reason is this empowerment.  We have this opportunity to empower in the workplace, empower at home.  We can change an unemployment rate So I get very excited about it, because I look at how technology is impacting my life, and I know there's a long, long way to go.  I look at how eye control has the power to impact communication for Steve going down the road again, and how things like Narrator can impact someone who's blind.  And we're on a journey, but I do believe that over time technology can make that difference JASON HOWARD:  It sounds like you have quite an impressive vision for the future of technology.  It's going to be fun to join along that ride and see where we go from here JENNY LAY-FLURRIE:  Game on, right JASON HOWARD:  Absolutely JENNY LAY-FLURRIE:  Okay JASON HOWARD:  So before we break, if you let your imagination run wild, what do you see as the future of technology JENNY LAY-FLURRIE:  Oh, this is a fun one.  So I'm a big Trekkie fan.  I mean, I am a big Trekkie.  I mean, it's not something I talk a lot about, but my father educated me really well And, I mean, you think about some of the technologies that were there, I mean, they had people with disabilities empowered through tech, right?  Geordi La Forge and his visor, I mean, how wicked is that I also think about Xbox and the power of holograms, and while I love my interpreter with every part of my soul before she throws things at me across the room, I mean, wouldn't it be wicked on-demand whenever I needed it to be able to just have a hologram appear and be able to understand a room with my interpreter just sitting right there?  And sometimes invisible.  Again I love you, but a little bit invisible.  I mean, that would be just wicked.  No scheduling, no logistics, just poof, up it comes, complete independence and freedom And I would love to see wheelchairs seamlessly going down stairs.  There's been a lot of different crazy stuff around that.  My goodness, I could keep going.  I mean, it's world is our oyster I think with this space JASON HOWARD:  So it seems you have quite the vision for the future of technology.  Before we wrap up, is there anything specific you'd like to share with the users JENNY LAY-FLURRIE:  Yeah.  Get involved, get going.  Please do check out the website.  That's really the single spot where everything is linked.  So it's  That's got details on our products, it's got details on conformance.  I mean, it's got details on feedback channels.  It's really a one-stop shop.  It's got our hiring programs on there as well And the one I'd call out really is our support team.  We actually have a dedicated support environment for our customers with disabilities.  It's called DAD, Disability Answer Desk.  I have no MOM, but I do have a DAD on my team.  And basically they are experts in accessibility, they're experts in accessible technologies.  And so give them a call.  You can use chat, you can use phone. And for our deaf customers -- and we'll transcribe this podcast, so I know they'll be looking at it, too -- we also have direct videos so you can contact us in American Sign Language, ASL.  And so they can help you with the latest rev of product But I know for our Insiders they're on it, and I just encourage the feedback, and let us know what else you want to see, because this is a journey and we'll only be as good as the feedback we get JASON HOWARD:  Absolutely For you non-Trekkies out there, the visor Jenny mentioned earlier is a device worn by the character Geordi La Forge from the series Star Trek the Next Generation.  If you're not familiar with this, you can check it out on Bing. Whatever changes may come in tech, it's exciting to know that these efforts will allow more people to participate in school, work, and their personal lives My conversation with Jenny got me wondering, what kind of impact do innovations in Windows 10 have for real people.  So I sat down with a Windows Insider who is blind and uses accessibility technologies every day JOSEPH LEE:  I'm Joseph Lee, currently a student at Cal State Los Angeles, studying communication studies, formerly studying computer science at UC Riverside, and currently a Windows Insider.  And I joined the Windows Insider program.  I was one of the first ones to get in on the first day when the very first build came out in October, 2014. And right now as part of my Insider program work I also am a developer of a screen reader, a third party screen reader named NVDA, Nonvisual Desktop Access So my work currently focuses on making sure that Redstone 4 builds are usable by people with visual impairments, specifically with Narrator and NVDA and other screen readers JASON HOWARD:  So obviously you're a Windows Insider, and you said you've been participating in the program since the beginning JOSEPH LEE:  Yes, since the beginning JASON HOWARD:  So just kind of overall how has the experience been of being a Windows Insider? JOSEPH LEE:  I'm impressed with progress I've seen, especially with accessibility features and other Windows features that does have accessibility potential such as most recently eye gaze or eye control, and Cortana obviously, progress with Microsoft Edge and seeing how people can how use consoles with Narrator and many other interesting developments in the accessibility space JASON HOWARD:  That's awesome So I do want to ask you about some of your personal experiences, if that's okay JOSEPH LEE:  Sure JASON HOWARD:  You know, you mentioned earlier of studying engineering.  I'm assuming that was at UC Riverside, as you had mentioned.  What was that experience like?  If I understand correctly, you were one of the first blind students to actually be in the engineering program at that college JOSEPH LEE:  I was one of the first blind students to take on engineering.  And for me it was a challenge, at first, because professors didn't know how to describe calculus graphs to me.  I knew the formulas for what the theorems were, but then in terms of graphing and whatnot it was a challenge.  For me it was quite an interesting experience going through computer science as a blind student.  Initially means communication but then in the end through some negotiations and communication it worked out JASON HOWARD:  So it sounds like you made some progress after a little bit of talking here, you know, some -- getting on the same page, it sounds like, to make some accommodations given the change in the environment, at least for that professor, right JOSEPH LEE:  Perfectly right.  In the early on, right JASON HOWARD:  So kind of on a broader scale like just in life as a whole can you describe the experience of having a visual impairment for our listeners JOSEPH LEE:  I was initially able to see, because I was low vision early on, because I was able to use magnifying glasses to see and walk around, or even take transportation around.  But the overall experience of visual impairment is adjustment and negotiation, adjustment because as often said in many research papers that if you lose one sense, it enhances the others.  For many people for visual impairment it's either touch or hearing.  In my case I'm blessed with both senses. And the other one is negotiation, trying to live life with something at a loss, but then it opens up a lot of opportunities such as being able to become more sensitive to hearing things such as hearing conversations much better, and being able to use alternative forms of communication, for example, as we'll get into, the screen readers, assistive tools, or sometimes even reading braille So for those who never experienced visual impairment, it's like stepping into another culture.  There's always going to be initial shock or loss, but then what makes a huge difference in the lives of people with visual impairment is seeing the potential despite loss of something, through adjustment in whatever they do, and negotiating the path forward JASON HOWARD:  You've had plenty of experience using technology.  Can you tell me about some of the early experiences previously?  Because obviously you said there's been a lot of progress and a lot of change.  So some of that older, early experience, can you tell me about using technology previously? JOSEPH LEE:  For me the very first taste of technology was when one of my elementary school teachers brought in a printed circuit board, a PCB.  And then a few months later, I got introduced to computers through DOS and screen reader.  Back then the screen readers would just take whatever is on the console and just print it out. And then this around the time is when I moved to U.S.  And then a few years later, I was introduced to what we now call a primitive note-taker device, a video cassette sized hardware with seven keys, six keys for braille dots and a spacebar.  And the alternative, because the market for assistive technology is small, back then it retailed for more than a thousand dollars JASON HOWARD:  Wow JOSEPH LEE:  About 1,500, to be exact JASON HOWARD:  Oh my goodness JOSEPH LEE:  Being able to use more advanced tools in Microsoft Office or being able to use more complicated websites was just a dream for us.  It was just static pages, static web pages, just using the basic features of Office, basic features of Word, and using Outlook as an e-mail client and whatnot That was early days, and that is very, very different world today when we have touchscreens, we have Surface Book 2, we have mixed reality, we have potentials for Cortana collections and whatnot JASON HOWARD:  So let me touch back on the Windows Insider program for a moment.  So obviously you having been in the program from the beginning, you've seen the change of accessibility features and the focus in Windows on accessibility along the progress as Windows 10 has jumped from build to build and release to release along the way.  And being an Insider obviously you have a chance to help influence the design of Windows and the progress of accessibility along the way.  Can you tell us about some of the experience you've had in helping guide the future of accessibility within Windows JOSEPH LEE:  I joined the Insider program mostly to see how accessibility is going, as mentioned, as well as to see, making sure that people with disabilities will not be left out in making sure that Windows 10 ecosystems are working for them and whatnot For me I think the biggest influence that I had on the program, and the most fruitful experience is dialogue and collaboration.  Back then in the early days of Windows Insider program I wrote an open letter to Microsoft addressed to Terry Myerson and other top executives, asking them to invest in accessibility, asking third party universal app developers to invest in listening to feedback on accessibility needs, because they will be potentially speaking and interacting with at least 400 million customers worldwide, and this is just visual impairment.  But there are billions of people who have visible and invisible disabilities around the world So that was my first initial focus of the Windows Insider program back then, and I think that has been the most fruitful thing I've seen Obviously appointment of Jenny Lay-Flurrie, on Twitter Jenny Lay-Fluffy, as Chief Accessibility Officer has been a greatest, one of the most significant achievements in terms of disability advocacy at Microsoft And the other thing that I helped influence is making sure that people think about accessibility in giving feedback JASON HOWARD:  We've talked a lot about Windows, we've talked about accessibility, we talked about some of your background, but let me ask you an important question about yourself.  Like what are some of your goals in life JOSEPH LEE:  Since I was a kid, I want to get into teaching.  My other life goal has been to serve, not just teach, because I feel that it is much better for people to show that they are willing to serve others than to be served.  Because for me serving others meant trying to find out what's going on so they can have a better experience in life or providing technical support.  And that's one of the reasons why I joined Insider program was to serve So those are my life goals, to one day stand on a podium and give lectures about computer science, communication studies, and whatever I learn, and serve JASON HOWARD:  Are you looking to teach others who have the same sight impairment as you or just broadly in general you want to reach out to anybody that you can have an effect on? JOSEPH LEE:  Ah, so mostly general public, because to me it doesn't matter who the audiences are, as long as they get the message.  It doesn't have to be people who use screen readers, it doesn't have to be all the blind people alone, all blind people in a group sitting together and using various phones and laptops.  It could be people, general public who are really interested in the back behind the scenes story of disability, accessibility work, or anything, that I need to tell the public about what I'm passionate about JASON HOWARD:  Well, Joseph, I have to say it's been fantastic chatting with you today.  Thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule.  I know being a student is chaotic and crazy.  There's a lot going on.  Your time is a bit limited.  But it means a lot to us for you to have taken the time to come and speak with us today.  So thank you so very much for that JOSEPH LEE:  You're welcome JASON HOWARD:  It's been a pleasure As we innovate for accessibility and inclusion, it can lead to benefits for people of all abilities.  Take this scenario:  sidewalks have a ramp to enable people in wheelchairs to use them, but that ramp is also helpful for people on bikes or with rolling luggage.  It's a great example of inclusive design benefitting everyone In addition to changes in the physical world like sidewalk ramps, accessibility features and inclusive design are already changing the way people of all abilities interact with technology.  Who knows what the future will bring?  It's possible that eye tracking and Narrator will have a broader influence on how we all use Windows If you have questions or feedback about Microsoft's accessibility efforts, I'll include some information to learn more in this episode's description.  And if you want to try out the features we mentioned for yourself, all you need to do is download the Windows 10 Fall Creator's Update.  And of course keep flighting for the chance to get the first look at the newest features in Microsoft releases Thanks for listening to this month's episode of the Windows Insider podcast.  If you like this episode, be sure to subscribe wherever you get your podcast.  We'll be tackling some great topics in the coming months like mixed reality.  You won't want to miss them Thanks, Insiders.  Catch you next time on the Windows Insider podcast NARRATOR:  Our program today was produced by Microsoft Production Studios.  The Insider team includes Tyler Ahn, Michelle Paison, and Amelia Greim Our website is  Support for the Windows Insider podcast comes from Microsoft, empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more Moral support and inspiration comes from Ninja Cat, reminding us to have fun and pursue our passions Thanks as always to our program's cofounders, Donna Sarkar and Jeremiah Marble. Make sure you never miss an episode of the Windows Insider podcast by subscribing wherever you get your podcasts. And if you like this episode, be sure to review and rate the podcast so others can discover it Join us next month for more stories with Windows InsidersEND
11/30/201732 minutes, 42 seconds
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The Future of Women in Tech

According to a 2016 study, only 26% of the tech industry’s workforce is women. This month on the Windows Insider Podcast, we explore the impact of having so few women in software development and other tech careers, and what we can do to empower women in the field. Featuring guest hosts Colleen O’Brien and Sonia Dara from the podcast “Women in Business & Technology”.   To learn more about the “Women in Business & Technology” podcast, visit:  
10/25/201746 minutes, 14 seconds
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Be a Hero in your Org with Windows Insider for Business

The Windows Insider Program gives IT Pros credibility and the chance to deliver better products to their customers. On top of that, companies and organizations have a huge impact on the development of Windows. In this episode, we ask Michael Niehaus, Director of Product Marketing at Windows, what businesses can gain from deploying preview builds at work. We also hear from an IT Pro whose close relationship with the Windows Insider team makes him better at his job.   To connect with Michael Niehaus on Twitter, you can find him @mniehaus. To ‘DIY’ your own Microsoft Ignite experience, check out the sessions online at
9/27/201720 minutes, 50 seconds
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Spotlight on Microsoft Internships

Have you ever wondered what it's like to intern at Microsoft? In this month's episode of the Windows Insider podcast, we look at the intern experience from two perspectives. First, we sit down with Lauren Rosenberg, a double-major in computer science and astrophysics, to learn what it's like being part of the Cloud and Enterprise team. Lauren was a Windows Insider in the fast ring before starting university, and the program helped propel her interest in working for Microsoft. We also talk to the Windows Insider engineering team's own intern, Marissa Zhang. Marissa shares her behind-the-scenes perspective of the program and what she's learned from the global community of Insiders.
8/10/201723 minutes, 50 seconds
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Insiders Take the Wheel

Insiders influence all that we do, so this month they are powering the Windows Insider podcast as we dive into themes of community and engagement. Listen as Dona Sarkar responds directly to questions from the Insider community on Twitter, along with giving us an exclusive first look at what's next for the program (hint: it's about building connections). Two long-time Insiders drive the second half of the episode when they interview Windows Insider MVP, Joel Rushworth, about engaging with friends and colleagues through the Windows Insider Program.
7/25/201736 minutes, 36 seconds
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The Importance of Play

This month on the Windows Insider Podcast, hear Kiki Wolfkill, the Studio Head for Transmedia at 343 Industries, and Dona Sarkar dissect how experiential gaming builds empathy, and learn life lessons from a third grader about how gamifying coding builds not only robots but friendships and newfound skills within immigrant communities.
6/28/201738 minutes, 46 seconds
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Microsoft in Education

On this week’s show, the Windows Education Marketing team describes what it takes to make technology more accessible for schools and more useful for today’s student – get an insider’s perspective into an event that launched a philosophy, not just a product. Keep listening to hear how Kayas Cultural College built a digital classroom using a fully Microsoft solution for distance learning in remote areas. From K-12 to adult education, join us for an episode In the Classroom.
5/26/201730 minutes, 53 seconds
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The Down Under Episode

In this Down Under episode of the Windows Insider podcast, listen in as Chief Ninja Cat, Dona Sarkar, and the Godfather of Windows Insider Program, Bill Karagounis, discuss updates coming out of Ignite Australia and ways our Insiders can become heroes of the digital transformation. Our next Aussie guest shares the origin story of Girl-germs, the name of her blog, and the value she finds as a member of the Insider community.
4/24/201723 minutes, 58 seconds
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Insiders For Good

On this inaugural episode, host Thomas “Tomcat” Trombley explores how Insiders for Good helps people transform their passion for tech into their superpower. Dona Sarkar, Head of the Windows Insider Program and overall Renaissance woman, teaches us how to use technology for the betterment of humanity. Then hear from one of the 25 winners of the first Insiders for Good Fellowship about how he puts power into the hands of the people of Nigeria (solar power, that is).
3/28/201716 minutes, 59 seconds