Fact: As reported in TechCrunch and other sites today, “Microsoft’s Live Labs has just released Thumbtack, a web clipping service that allows users to compile links, media, and text snippets into online storage bins for future reference. Users can also share their Thumbtack collections with their peers, allowing them to collaborate by adding new clips and notations… The service works fine on IE7 and Firefox, and isn’t OS dependent. Each of these clippings can be sorted into folders called ‘Collections’, which can be published to the web via RSS, embedded in blogs, opened to friends for collaboration, or kept private for safe keeping.” [There’s also a good Ars Technica review of Thumbtack here.]
Analysis: It would be pretty easy for me to blog regularly just repeating coverage of new things released by Microsoft Research or Live Labs — Thumbtack looks cool, and you should check it out — but I don’t want to come off as a shill.
But if a publication like Network World highlights Microsoft R&D, I suppose it’s all right to point it out. Their piece this week on “10 Microsoft research projects” is driven by “a recent two-day visit to Microsoft corporate headquarters” and meeting with researchers and innovators.
None of these projects are truly futuristic. And, to be candid, the media doesn’t get to see the really best revolutionary stuff, the crown jewels – sorry!
But these are great projects, and in the writer’s characterization, “A few of these projects have already resulted in shipping products; others may never see the light of day – they are meant as a proof of concept. Some could change how we do computing altogether.”
The full list is interesting, but here are two which I believe government users might be most interested in – I’ve added some comments to short excerpts from the Network World descriptions:
Eagle 1 is “a data visualization and mapping tool…Eagle 1 pulls information from multiple databases and uses geospatial mapping technology to create an interactive map that would show, for example, all the schools, military bases, hospitals in the affected area. Plus it would show how many people are in the hospitals, current evacuation models and casualties or danger zones, even a plume model that could show where a gas leak is heading. All the data is shown in a real-time interactive map using Virtual Earth, but the key is how Eagle 1 pulls data from many different sources (such as from both Oracle and SAP databases) and presents the results on one screen that can even run on a Microsoft Surface table.”
It’s not pointed out in the Network World story, but Eagle 1 uses Groove as its data collaboration tool, advantageous for disaster scenarios where connectivity could be intermittent since it can operate asynchronously.
The Social Streams platform “provides a big picture view of political news and blog chatter. It’s essentially a trend aggregator similar to Google Trends or Yahoo Buzz, except that it crawls the Web for actual content, rather than just aggregating search terms. Alex Daley – the group product manager at Microsoft Live Labs – showed a demo where Sarah Palin news reports and blog posts appeared on a graph in comparison to reports on Barack Obama. ‘This is all in real-time, and we can effectively filter across various industries – we are starting with politics,’ Daley says. ‘We can see the relationship between political reports. John McCain has had much more media interest than Barack Obama ever since the Sarah Palin announcement. We use a technique called entity extraction, a machine learning technique for classifying documents and text, such as this is a name, this is a place, or a recipe, or a review or product manual. We extract the core data and drawing relationships.’ “
Social Streams has actually already gone live on the web with one offshoot as a live beta of the concepts described: Political Streams, launched for the 2008 campaign. But the crawling, indexing, and entity-extraction work is carried out at web-scale across information domains, not just in political news or blogs. You’ll hear much more from Social Streams, I guarantee it!
Overall in all these technologies, you can see several significant trends in Microsoft focus: much greater attention to collaboration, to social software and social media, but always with a strong platform approach and recognition of the power of open interfaces. More to come…
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