Today we'll chat with Stevie Bathiche. Stevie is the Research Manager in Microsoft's Applied Sciences Group. His job is to discover and explore and right away when talking to Stevie you can tell he really /really/ loves his job. The ASG is behind some of the coolest innovations at Microsoft, from making holodecks a reality to "Magic" Windows to 3D computing.
Tell us about your background and how you came to work at Microsoft?
I was an Electrical Engineering undergraduate at Virginia Tech, one day I walked past a flyer for a Microsoft scholarship contest. I applied, interviewed, and got the scholarship. As part of the package, Microsoft offered to fly me to Seattle for internship interview...I said "sweet free trip to Seattle"! After that I did 3 internships with Microsoft, loving every summer. The first one I worked on Natural Language Processing in Microsoft Office, the second one is when I developed the SideWinder 3D pro (the first commercial gaming device to inertial sensors), and the 3rd one I worked on a smart remote (it also shipped).
What surprised you about working at Microsoft?
What was your first computer?
Atari 130XE and the Acorn Electron... yay baby! J
If you were graduating right now, what technologies and industries would you be drawn to?
The same I went to graduate school for at the UW: BioEngineering... a revolution in the making. My job at Microsoft is interface technology with people, I view that on the spectrum of Bioengineering... As I evolve in my career here I think computing will be moving closer to the Bio end.
Who are some of your favorite people to follow on Twitter?
Changes... I jump on tweeter from time to time to read and understand people's thoughts on various events.. it is really insightful.
What are some of your favorite sites to read?
No one in particular... I look at more aggregation portals like search engines than specific sites.
What does the Applied Sciences Group at Microsoft Research do?
We help understand what is next for certain products groups and then help translate that into a products. We go from research to development and back. "The Applied Sciences Group (ASG) is an applied research and development team dedicated to creating the next generation of computer interaction technologies. The interdisciplinary group focuses on the synergy between optics, electronics and software to create novel human computer interfaces. The ASG mainly supports projects for next generation computing and interface hardware for various divisions at Microsoft." We live in the world between pure research and product development, we don't do research for the sake of research but rather to develop a new technology that enables a new experience which can have impact to Microsoft's product offering or influence the offering itself. Our impact can range from creation of defensible intellectual property, features of a product, a new product, or a whole new business. We sit and work very closely with the product groups, understanding the challenges. When it comes time to technology transfer we work side by side as one team to help cross new technology development chasm. We are neither researchers or engineers, but both, with a strong passion of making a difference in the world be creating new experiences that matter. I love this model of invention as I see it as the new breed of corporate innovation, but I am biased J
I couldn't help but notice that Batman's R&D group is also named the Applied Sciences Group. Coincidence?
Not at all
What technologies are we on the edge of that you're most excited about?
The evolution of human interface technologies, display and sensing technology is a hot bed! Getting more data from the world and then using sophisticated software to understand that data and do something magical with it... Then turn around and communicate with the user to immersive them as seamless as possible the information that needs to get communicated.
As the first person to integrate an accelerometer in a gaming device, you recognized early on the importance of motion detection in devices. tell us about the importance of sensors and how they are changing how we use computers. What's next?
The more the computer understands about the user and its environment, the smarter it can be and the more natural of an experience it can provide. More of that...
The role of displays are widening; on one hand we are moving to incredibly high DPI screens, on the other hand we're seeing a trend of projecting onto varied surfaces including our own body. What do you see in the future for display technologies?
I see low power being a huge trend. Today display consume 40% of the battery of a mobile or laptop device... this is a huge opportunity to extend the life of your device and make it thinner and lighter. I also see displays becoming more and more immersive—smart displays—like the one we show where two or more people can be watching the same display but looking at different content.
You have a history of connecting living things to machines, whether through the cockroach car, mothmobile, or your NUI work at Microsoft. What is the connection between man and machine look like in the future, and what benefits does it afford society?
One of the traits that separates us from other creatures is the ability to invent tools that can be used to reciprocally advance ourselves. The more seamless the interface between the tool and the mind, the more powerful the tool becomes, and the more intertwined the tool becomes with the fabric of humanity. This evolution has no ceiling but the current limits of imagination.
3D has wavered on the edge of public embrace for 50 years, but still hasn't taken firm hold. What needs to happen in this space for 3D technologies to be a part of our daily lives?
Many things for it to be ubiquitous: from the hardware needs to be better (no glasses), software infrastructure, more available content, more content creation, and content delivery... Eventually 3D will happen, else what is the point of having two eyes