AR space travel and clever bots: the best of Microsoft Build

Microsoft’s annual developer conference was super-futuristic, with AR space travel, clever bots and all-new Windows Ink on display…

07 Apr 2016


We round up the most exciting developments from Microsoft’s annual Build conference. 

HoloLens in space

The start of the conference marked the first batch of Microsoft’s augmented reality (AR) headsets being shipped to developers. Their challenge – to create new ways of using it. So what can we expect to see in the coming months?

In a video called ‘Microsoft HoloLens: Partners make it real’, Microsoft showed us how the headset could fit into the real world – proving it’s more than just a fun accessory for gaming, it means business.

Imagine being able to travel to distant planets – without leaving Earth? At NASA’s exhibition visitors could do just that, using the headset to explore and interact with a 3D version of Mars.

The immersive experience was made up of images captured directly from space by the Curiosity Rover, a robotic car that’s stationed on the planet.

It’s all part of Microsoft and NASA’s OnSight project – where HoloLens is being used to carry out experiments in space.

Find out more about HoloLens

Clever bots to help you get things done

Aside from HoloLens, bots were the other big story at Build – and Microsoft is full-force behind them.

Fancy planning your next holiday, ordering your Friday night takeaway or booking a taxi – all by chatting to your computer? That’s exactly what Microsoft envisions with its ‘chatbots’.

This special computer software uses speech recognition technology to understand what you’re saying and acting intelligently on it.

Why? Microsoft said it wants to make it easier and faster for people to use technology to carry out simple tasks like ordering a pizza, rather than going through a complicated set of step-by-step instructions.

Cortana gets even more intuitive

Speaking of making it easier to get tasks done, Microsoft’s personal assistant Cortana has been given a Windows 10 Anniversary update. Now it won’t just remind you when you need to do something – it’ll actually help you to do it.

How? The new and improved Cortana can pick up on the tasks you regularly carry out like booking a taxi or ordering food, and arrange it for you. Other improvements include:

  • Works across your different Windows devices – so you can get a text on your phone and respond to it on your PC
  • Easier to access – now you can launch Cortana without even unlocking your device
  • Xbox integration – browse for new games with voice commands and get helpful tips to improve your gameplay

As Microsoft puts it, it’s like having your very own ‘personal gaming assistant’.

All-new Windows Ink

And for when you’re tired of chatting, why not try drawing out commands on your device instead?

Microsoft’s overhauled its stylus with new name ‘Windows Ink’ – and it promises to be a lot more advanced than the previous version.

For starters, it’ll work with a host of enabled apps like Maps, Edge and Office. And to make it even more convenient – it’s been directly incorporated into the settings menu so you no longer need to use a separate app to control it.

Customise it with your preferences, like which apps launch with a double-click of your pen. With it you can:

  • Jot down reminders on the notepad on screen – your device will be able to recognise important details like dates and timings from your handwriting
  • Get directions – simply mark where you want to go on a map and Microsoft will plan out a route for you
  • Keep on top of all your notes without losing them with extras like sticky notes, notepad and sketchpad

Find out more about Windows 10