Enhanced computing seeks to blur the lines between human and computer interaction. Technologies typically reserved for AI applications can be used to enhance traditional applications and make them more useable. The goal is to make the user's experience as natural and intuitive as possible. Another goal is to extend the capabilities of current applications in order to help the user do more with less effort. For the purposes of this book, enhanced computing involved the use of mobile devices, speech recognition, data-mining, and other Microsoft technologies and products. It may soon involve the use of many more technologies emerging from Microsoft Research or other third-party vendors, such as natural-language understanding and facial recognition.
The discussion in this book focuses primarily on Microsoft technologies. This is mainly because of the great acceptance and proliferation of Microsoft products. Microsoft spends almost as much on research and development as on sales and marketing. Just remember that the overall goal of this book is to show you how to use AI technologies to enhance and extend the user's experience with more natural computing.
The present chapter features some upcoming products and technologies that Microsoft has to offer. The first section, titled "The Next Development Platform," focuses on development tools and server-based products expected to be released within the next few years. These products are in either the alpha or the beta stage, and more than likely you have already heard about them. They are listed in Table 9.1.
Table 9.1. Microsoft developer tools scheduled for release sometime in the near future. These products represent the next generation of development tools Microsoft is offering. They should enable developers to create some powerful and intelligent-based applications.
SQL Server 2005 (code name Yukon)
The next release of SQL Server will include an updated version of Analysis Services. Analysis Services 2005 will offer a new interface and five new data-mining algorithms.
Visual Studio.NET, 2005 (code name Whidbey)
This release should correspond with the release of SQL Server 2005 and will provide support for it.
This is the next big Windows operating system. Focusing on security and stability, it uses a new application model and markup language to create Longhorn-based applications.
This is the release of Visual Studio.NET that will correspond with the release of Longhorn. It will allow you to access the new features of Longhorn.
The information in this chapter is based on preliminary documentation for software not yet released and on documentation available from Microsoft Research. Therefore, the information is subject to change and may be different at the time a product is released.
The next section, titled "Microsoft Research," features a few of the projects currently under development or near completion at Microsoft Research (MSR). MSR supports several research areas (listed in Table 9.2) that consist of multiple research groups. The projects these groups are working on show potential in the area of enhanced computing and should form the basis for new products from Microsoft.
Table 9.2. Main research areas at Microsoft Research. Each of these areas includes several groups working on multiple projects. Members of each research group generally work on more than one project and often work across groups and research areas.
Algorithms and Theory
This mathematically based group is working on several projects that range from game theory to quantum computing. The Intelligent Systems group is working specifically on new algorithms for data-mining and improving handwriting recognition for handheld devices.
This group aims to develop devices that interface with the user more naturally. It has built a bone-conductive microphone named Who Is Talking to You (WITTY) that should reduce background noise and increase successful speech recognition.
This area is the basis for many different groups and a broad range of projects at MSR. It involves interacting with the user in better ways and also includes research in the reasons people use their computers and how that experience can be improved overall.
Machine Learning, Adaptation and Intelligence
This area focuses on creating software that can learn and includes projects involved in data and text mining, document processing, facial recognition, and audio fingerprinting. It also includes groups dedicated to natural-language processing and understanding, which is critical to understanding spoken text from a user.
Multimedia and Graphics
This area seeks to enhance the user's experience by taking advantage of the increasing amounts of memory and hardware capabilities. Projects in this area include collaborative video viewing, image editing, and a project that aims to digitize every piece of information a person can collect.
Search, Retrieval, and Knowledge Management
Information retrieval is becoming more critical as the amount of digitized information grows at an accelerated pace. This area aims to make the process of searching and retrieving information more efficient and easier for the user. It includes a project called Approximate Query Processing which looks for new ways to query and browse data.
Security and Cryptography
This involves research in creating secure systems on both open and private networks. Members in this area consult on security for Microsoft products and are working on a biometric authentication method.
Also involved heavily in human to computer interaction, this area includes projects designed to enhance the user's experience. It involves speech-based projects like the multi-modal conversational user interface, which is based on continuous speech recognition and language understanding.
This area's primary goal is to make developers more productive. It involves research into new languages, and work from this area has been used to enhance Microsoft developer tools.
Systems, Architectures, Mobility and Networking
Addressing the needs of a mobile society, this area includes projects in networking, databases, and distributed systems.
The end of the chapter will briefly discuss how AI factors into the future of enhanced computing. The section titled "Other Areas of AI" highlights a few additional branches of AI that may be of further interest to readers, along with Web sites you can visit for more information. Also included is a profile box that features a newly formed company named Sonum Technologies. Sonum produces a natural-language processor that may dramatically change the way humans interact with their computers.