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Microsoft kicked off its seventh annual TechFest this week in Redmond, where the company’s research teams emerge from the labs to display their latest technologies. Here’s a look at just a few of the technologies demoed at the conference:

Tiny Web Services
Feng Zhao with Microsoft Research demoed a small chip he dubbed Tiny Web Services that monitors a home or data center’s energy efficiency. “This sensor actually can sense the temperature, humidity and other environmental variables,” in a home or office, he said in a video. “It takes this information, and it computes some high-level information from that and tells me whether the house is too hot or too cold” and relays that information to “controllers” like a home furnace or PC, he said. The completed device would run on 2AA batteries and use a wireless transceiver to transmit information through a TCP/IP connection, Zhao said. “This is a wireless device, you can spread these out into an environment, they can communicate together and they can communicate with ordinary PCs using standard Web server Web browser kinds of technologies,” Rick Rashid, senior vice president of research, said in a Tuesday keynote.

Revitalizing Chip Architecture Research
Chuck Thacker and John Davis previewed BEE3, a piece of hardware “whose purpose in life is to actually explore new computer architectures,” Thacker told Microsoft’s Channel 9. “This is a way to allow you to not go as far as building a chip, but still build something that will run real programs faster.” It gives users “the ability to write a program to specify that new architecture that you want to simulate, emulate or prototype and then load that into the FPGA,” Davis said. BEE3 originated at Berkeley, but they “had trouble in a university setting supporting large umber of users,” so Microsoft stepped in to help, Thacker said. Microsoft has licensed the product to a third party company that plans to ship it this summer, according to Thacker. But “this is not charity,” he said. Microsoft wants “to be able to use [BEE3] for our own research.”

WorldWide Telescope
This telescope, developed by Curtis Wong and Jonathan Fay, can gather data from various telescopes around the world and give a single view of the sky, Rashid said. “You’re not confined to just using telescopes, you’re not confined to data from only one data source,” he said. Their work is “a follow-on historically to the work of Jim Gray in the Terra Server and the SkyServer,” Rashid said.


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