Microsoft Menlo mobile project unveiled in research white paper

Menlo is a codename that has been buzzing on the net ever since Mary Jo Foley first talked about it a couple of months ago. It has be speculated that this was probably Redmond’s attempt to build a new mobile operating system or something close to this. Things are now a little bit clearer thanks to a research whit paper entirely dedicated to this project. What comes out of it is that Menlo is actually a Research Project / Prototype Device centered around Activity-Based Navigation on Mobile Devices. Here’s the abstract:

We introduce activity-based navigation, which uses human activities derived from sensor data to help people navigate, in particular to retrace a ?trail? previously taken by that person or another person. Such trails may include step counts, walking up/down stairs or taking elevators, compass directions, and photos
taken along a user‘s path, in addition to absolute positioning (GPS and maps) when available. To explore the user experience of activity-based navigation, we built Greenfield, a mobile device interface for finding a car. We conducted a ten participant user study comparing users‘ ability to find cars across three different
presentations of activity-based information as well as verbal instructions. Our results show that activity-based navigation can be used for car finding and suggest its promise more generally for supporting navigation tasks. We present lessons for future activity-based navigation interfaces, and motivate further work in
this space, particularly in the area of robust activity inference.

The picture you saw above is the actual Menlo device (on the right) running the Greefiled UI (which is in Silverlight):

We developed Greenfield as a Silverlight application on the Menlo V1 platform (Figure 3d). Menlo is a prototype mobile device with a capacitive touch screen (4.1? diagonal, 800×480) running Microsoft Windows Embedded CE 6.0 R2 which incorporates a Bosch BMA150 3-axis accelerometer and Bosch BMP085 digital pressure sensor (barometer). The application provides users with a series of activities in a trail, which we call breadcrumbs. Each breadcrumb consists of: walking for a
specified number of steps (optionally specifying a compass direction), going up/down stairs for a specified number of floors, or taking an elevator for a specified number of floors. The Greenfield overview screen (Figure 1a) shows a list of breadcrumbs, each representing an action to perform (e.g., walk up [x] flights of stairs) en route to a destination. Tapping a particular breadcrumb opens the detail screen (Figure 1b) which can show additional information including camera images and a map with GPS locations (if available), and allows users to navigate between breadcrumbs

So as you can see this is far from being some kind of new unified mobile OS but more of a research project aimed at pioneering the future of user interaction and experiences with mobile devices. Don’t expect to see any of this in an actual product in the near future but like many research projects at Microsoft you can expects the results and findings to be implemented in some ways in a product down the road.

Source: Microsoft Research (pdf) via  Mary Jo Foley