Microsoft's vision for the future: Smart bracelets, holograms, and adaptive wall displays

Microsoft's 'productivity future vision' presents an idyllic, amazing concept of the future where interactive displays meet Microsoft's next-gen Microsoft Band, the Courier folding display, and more.

microsoft vision diver 2 hololens

Microsoft's Hololens scuba gear

For every Her, there are 10 Terminators. Quite frankly, dystopian visions of the future far outweigh any vision of man living harmoniously with machine. Not so in Microsoft's latest "Productivity Future Vision," a concept video released by its enterprise team that shows off the future of productivity.

Microsoft's video is chock full of futuristic technology that reimagines how we work, live and play. And inside it all is Microsoft's tech: a next-gen Microsoft Band, an evolved HoloLens, and even future versions of Microsoft Sway and giant Surface screens.

It all takes place in the context of an attempt to preserve a kelp bed. A diver swims forward to explore, wearing what looks to be an augmented-reality display in her mask. HoloLens? Sure looks like it. 

The spectacular video can be found here. Or you can just click through this slideshow, and we'll walk you through the interesting parts!

microsoft vision diver viewpoint puck mouse

A puck mouse?

This is one of the more intriguing pieces of technology shown off in Microsoft's video, as it seemingly has no counterpart in the real world. The pop-up "puck" appears to be a dial that can be turned, and serves as a display. It appears in other scenes throughout the video, too.

microsoft vision classroom

Surface Hub in the classroom

The camera pulls back to reveal a massive display, similar to the Perceptive Pixel wall-size displays that Microsoft sells. (It most recently commericialized them as the new Surface Hub.)

Alongside the main video viewscreen are supplementary windows, with additional participants and detail.

microsoft vision screen throwing

Information "thrown" from display to display

We've seen a number of technologies that mirror information shown on one display to another (including Microsoft's Miracast dongle). This goes a bit beyond that, showing how video windows could be thrown from one display to another. It looks simple enough (after all, you can already slide a browser tab from one monitor to another), but it's still slightly advanced for our time.

microsoft vision classroom 2

Downloading information to a 3D printer

It's not quite clear what's going on here, but it appears that a tablet is communicating to what appears to be a smart hub or printer of some kind.  The odd box (desktop PC?) also appears in the next scenario...

microsoft vision 3d printing

3D printing in the classroom

One of the demonstrations that Microsoft showed reporters at the recent HoloLens demonstration at Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond (which, sadly, we weren't allowed to record) was a way for people to manipulate 3D virtual objects, and then send them off to a 3D printer. This looks like that concept, advanced a few years ahead.

microsoft vision classroom display

Intelligent displays

The classroom scene also shows a bezel-less display running the video captured by the diver. Tapping the video (specifically the stingray) brings up more information about it, indicating that the video application or the display itself "knows" what it's seeing.

microsoft vision folio folding display

A new Microsoft Courier?

In 1999, then world was afire over the concept that Microsoft would launch its own tablet, as evidenced by a leak of what was known as the Microsoft Courier. Unfortuntely, the Courier never saw the light of day—though the Surface did. 

This new, folding tablet—it looks like a mouse pad, no?—is an intriguing intersection of the tactile and the visual. 

microsoft vision digital ink

Smart ink?

Here's another technology that we're having a bit of difficulty interpreting. Tapping the stylus to the smart puck (here it is again!) "sucks up" ink into the stylus, where one of the protagonists applies it to the Courier-style tablet. It's an intriguing concept, but what is she sucking up?

microsoft vision office sway

Microsoft's Sway makes an appearance

Right now, Microsoft's Sway tool is in its early stages, straddling the line between Word and PowerPoint. In this video, however, Microsoft Sway is much more polished: Not only does the "remix" tool appear to be much more dynamic, but options to reformat the text in "academic" and other formats appear. It's not clear if the language itself changes (as opposed to the layout) but that would be a nifty addition as well.

microsoft vision smart bracelet

A next-gen Microsoft Band

Zoom! And we're off again to an Asian city where a young designer is asked to join the kelp consulting project by a pair of bracelets that magnetically fuse together to form a wider display. In this concept, the entire plastic band chromatically changes to orient itself vertically (which, notably, the Microsoft Band cannot do today). Pretty neat, huh?

microsoft vision bracelet connecting

The Band as a token

The designer unlocks the door to a rented workspace via the bracelet, then unfolds it to transform it into a smart controller. The bracelet then acts as a token, identifying her to a large, easel-like display that begins presenting her work.

microsoft vision digital whiteboard

A white table

Collaborative smart displays are a theme within this concept video, and here's another one, tilted back for best effect.

microsoft vision earpiece and transparent wall

Wall screens

Meanwhile, the executive in charge of the project is evaluating the new additions to her team. Tucked in her ear is a Bluetooth headset; the display in front of her presents the contextual information she needs, as Microsoft Lync or its new Delve tool does.

microsoft vision network influence

"Network influence"

Not so much a technological advance, but a cultural one: Note that candidates are being evaluated on their influence as much as anything else.

microsoft vision kitchen bulletin board

Kitchen hub

At home, the project leader pours herself a smoothie, while nutritional information and the state of her health appears on a homey display in her kitchen.

microsoft vision wall communication

Life-size Skype

The executive says hello to her father, nestled comfortably in his easy chair. Note here that the screen blends into the wall, and projects the image of her father at life-size proportions. This is likely deliberate, to give the sense that the video is more like a "window" into her father's home.

microsoft vision science wall

Displays, for science!

Researchers debate chemical compounds, using a shared wall that recognizes them as they approach.

microsoft vision science wall video

Interactive communication

Another Hololens demonstration involved interacting with an "avatar" that can interact with the same objects you could see. The blonde executive shown here can spin the globe to the upper left, highlighting what she chooses to present. It's a vision of collaboration that's very Microsoft.

microsoft vision 3d display

Truly 3D displays

We're not sure how'd you turn this into a reality, but this display, which "rises" to meet the user's fingers, looks super cool.

microsoft vision aquatic drones

Aquatic drones!

And how to you ensure that the kelp is saved? Deploy a handful of aquatic drones as autonomous sensors to find out!

All in all, Microsoft’s video is nothing more than science fiction—but science fiction that extrapolates a possible future. Keep an eye out! You may just see elements of this pop up in future Microsoft products.

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