Kincet SDK Beta released alongside extensive documentation

This is in not really mobile related but if you have been a fan of Microsoft Kinect hardware and love to code existing stuff then you should be happy to know that the Kinect Beta SDK for Windows 7 is now available for download. The package currently includes the drivers required to make the Kinect cameras work on your Windows 7 PC, sample code and following tutorials:

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Microsoft Bing Maps Streeside view coming to France, UK, Germany and Spain

It is well known fact that the current iteration of Bing Maps is several lacking in terms of content outside of the US. The POI database is either out of date or really small depending on the country and many of the must-have features like StreetSide view (known as StreeView in Google Maps) and real-time Traffic are non-existent. Thankfully Microsoft with the help of Nokia’s Navteq is hard at work right now and has just launched a couple of cars in the UK to start collecting pictures and GEO data info to expand the StreeSide database:

Microsoft has already collected imagery in 56 US metro areas as well as in selected areas in Canada. In April 2011, Microsoft will begin collecting street level imagery in Europe, starting in the UK with France, Germany and Spain following soon after.

We primarily drive public roads with our initial focus on streets with businesses and points of public interest. At times, we may drive residential areas as well. As we continue to grow our street level coverage, we’ll share our plans to expand collection areas.

As of right now this feature is only available on the desktop version of Bing Maps and not in the Windows Phone 7 (the iPhone version of the Bing app does have StreeSlide though..) but one can only hope that Microsoft is currently working on implementing it on their own mobile OS and hopefully show case it during today’s MIX11 keynote.

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Microsoft Research shows Windows Phone 7 some love at TechForum event

Microsoft Research had its TechForum event yesterday where it showcased some of it’s latest projects to the press. Windows Phone 7 happily took the center stage this year in several demonstrations. In the first video after the break you will see Microsoft Chief Research and Technology Officer, Craig Mundie, demonstrated a new UI controlled by an HTC HD7. This may or may not be what we can expect to see in the upcoming Windows 8 but it definitely shows us where Microsoft is heading with regards to UI and NUIs.

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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.

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Microsoft’s upcoming Bing Maps Street Slide view and 3D navigation in Photosynth

If you have used Microsoft’s Bing Maps lately you are probably familiar with the Street Side feature that enables you to navigate in first person view through the street of many US cities (similar to Google’s Street View). Microsoft Research isn’t totally happy about the user experience, especially the way the users has to jump from one bubble to another when trying to navigate through a city and is now currently working on a new technology called Street Slide:

Systems such as Google Street View and Bing Maps Streetside enable users to virtually visit cities by navigating between immersive 360° panoramas, or bubbles. The discrete moves from bubble to bubble enabled in these systems do not provide a good visual sense of  a larger aggregate such as a whole city block. Multi-perspective “strip” panoramas can provide a visual summary of a city street but lack the full realism of immersive panoramas.

We present Street Slide, which combines the best aspects of the immersive nature of bubbles with the overview provided by multi-perspective strip panoramas. We demonstrate a seamless transition between bubbles and multi-perspective panoramas. We also present a dynamic construction of the panoramas which overcomes many of the limitations of previous systems. As the user slides sideways, the multi-perspective panorama is constructed and rendered dynamically to simulate either a perspective or hyper-perspective view. This provides a strong sense of parallax, which adds to the immersion. We call this form of sliding sideways while looking at a street facade a street slide. Finally we integrate annotations and a mini-map within the user interface to provide geographic information as well additional affordances for navigation. We demonstrate our Street Slide system on a series of intersecting streets in an urban setting. We report the results of a user study, which shows that visual searching is greatly enhanced with the Street Slide interface over existing systems from Google and Bing.

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