Microsoft: Smartwatches are a "possibility," lots of cool stuff coming

Developing a smartwatch is the cool thing to be doing at the moment, it seems. Apple, Google, Samsung, LG and Microsoft are all reported to be making - or at least thinking about - a smartwatch, with some predicting that Apple will release it during 2013. 

Microsoft's chief research officer, Rick Rashid, spoke with The Verge about some of Microsoft's plans for future products, including a smartwatch. Microsoft has, according to Rashid, been working on watches for a while: "One of the problems that we encountered when we were working on watches back in the early 2000s was that a lot of our hypothetical target market didn't actually wear a watch."

A Microsoft-branded watch is still a "possibility" but "a lot of young people don't really wear watches." Earlier this week, it emerged that the company's Xbox team has been working on smartwatch prototypes for over a year.

While a smartwatch from Microsoft may not necessarily be imminent, other revolutionary technology might. Microsoft Research has done extensive investigation into emotion-detecting systems, developing programmes that are capable of working out a person's state of mind by measuring the tenor of their voice, the way in which they're speaking and even the look on their face.

Rashid says it's natural to develop more emotional ties with technology - such as robots - as the software and hardware become more advanced. "We have a tendency to attribute anthropomorphic characteristics to things because that's who we are, and there's a tendency to treat anything that's animated in the world as if it's something like us," says Rashid. 

Desney Tan, a Microsoft Senior Researcher, recently developed a contact lens capable of measuring a person's vitals, such as blood sugar levels. Rashid said that this technology could be used in other non-health scenarios, and could display an image. The lens would be powered by the human's body heat, so would last forever. 

As a proof of concept, Rashid went to China and gave a keynote speech to demonstrate new voice recognition software that interprets what a person has said, translates it and plays it back in the person's voice. The software has an accuracy rate of 93%, which is impressive considering human translators have an accuracy rate of 97-98%. Rashid says his team has seen dramatic steps forward in the technology, meaning the language barrier may soon be broken down. 

Source: The Verge

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