Drop-in at Microsoft

This year CIID has been invited to participate in the Design Expo at the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit and present our project Selective Reality  responding to the brief “In a world of a billion sensors, how will we make sense of it all?”.

Me and my schoolmate Simon, chosen by the fate through the cup game, flew to Seattle to represent the whole team of six, present the project and get acquainted with Microsoft and other participating students.

Over the course of four days, besides refining and practicing our presentation on the big stage, we had the chance to snoop around the Microsoft campus and get a guided tour of the different sections. I was seriously impressed to see how enormous the campus is. We arrived on a Saturday therefore it was pretty empty all around, besides a bunch of people playing cricket on a well groomed green field. The campus – in Redmond, northeast of Seattle – hosts 40000 people who mainly commute everyday from the city. It is actually a town itself, blocks of concrete with large windows merged in the green, big neat roads, buses reserved to employees, a lake dedicated to Bill, a slice of the Berlin’s wall.

The offices of Skype are obviously dominated by cerulean walls and forniture, a lot of open spaces but also tiny rooms for private conversations or need of high peak concentration, comfy hammocks appears behind several corners, a well equipped kitchen for every kind of taste, even the espresso is good. Our guide and everyone around us look pretty friendly and easygoing. The mood changes when we enter the Envisioning Center and the next guide sharply asks us to drop all our cameras: here taking pics is forbidden. She is going to show us what Microsoft vision of the future is : interactive boards for brainstorming, projection wall for planning the work flow, connected programs able to automatically update modified files, personal interactive job avatars.

On Monday we present our project in front of a public of 300 people. It is the first time I speak in front of so many people, you can tell from my voice (CIID starts at 1:20:50) I am a bit nervous. At the same time I am glad I am pushing myself out of my comfort zone. The sound technician sets our microphones and we suddenly find ourselves on the stage. I feel like I will forget everything I have to say. Instead after the first sentence the speech cakes out pretty fluent so that Simon tells me that one was my best performance so far. Comments by Bill Buxton and Tom Igoe. Done. We gain the Most-Thought-Provoking award.

A big thanx to Haiyan Zhang for choosing our project and supporting us from London and Joshua Walton and James Tichenor for being the coolest liaisons ever and showing around the city.