Cool Apps from Microsoft
I attended the Cleveland .NET SIG last night, where Jeff Blankenburg (my new Developer Evangelist) gave a demo-rich presentation on some cool new(ish) applications Microsoft has been working on this year. Most of them I'd already seen, but it was a good presentation and parts of it were new to me (like the Seadragon Video), and the audience was duly impressed. Here's a rundown of what was covered - Jeff has promised the slides (minimal though they were) on his blog soon.
Microsoft Popfly - A way to write applications that combine data from different services and web sites and presents it in unique ways, without writing any code. It lets end users build mash-up applications through drag and drop, and was released in mid 2007.
tafiti - A Silverlight showcase application that takes a search engine and extends it for use as a research tool. It also has a tree view of data that rotates in three dimensions, that is as far as I can tell completely useless (from a utilitarian point of view) but does a nice job of showing off some of the graphic capabilities of Silverlight. Best feature: you can grab things that pique your interest from a search and throw them into a shelf system that saves them for later viewing, so you don't have to do the "search results - read a link - back button - read a link - back button" dance.
Microsoft Surface - This is a really cool technology that will truly change the way we do a lot of computer- oriented tasks. The current hardware is a coffee table style form factor on which multiple users can interact via a multi-touch display. The table recognizes things that are placed on it, and with supported devices can interact with them. In the popular video demonstrating the technology, a camera with wireless capabilities is placed on the table, and its images spill out of it onto the surface, ready to manipulate. A phone is placed on the table, and images can be dragged to it and are immediately transferred to the phone. All with no wires. Watch the video if you haven't seen it, and then watch the parody, which is hilarious, if a bit unfair.
Photosynth - From Microsoft Labs, this tool will pull photos that have been geotagged to a particular location and stitch them together to create a virtual, 3-dimensional representation of the location based on many different photos taken by different people at different times. Some cool possibilities.
Seadragon - This is some of the technology on which Photosynth is built, and is focused on displaying massive amounts of visual data at one time. In the video shown, the presenter has a tiled layout of images and pans and zooms into them seamlessly, showing at one point a complete book, at another the united states' entire road system (starting from orbit and zooming down to a road), and a magazine with a quarter-panel advertisement, with details on it that can be seen by zooming in to levels that, if the magazine were on paper, would only be visible with a microfiche reader. Very interesting - it will be cool when application user interfaces let you "zoom in" to get more detail on something, or to interact with a particular piece of data, rather than our current model of pop-up windows and modal dialogs.
Listas - An API for managing lists. I've seen some of these come and go, but this is Microsoft's foray into it. Think Amazon Wish Lists and del.icio.us bookmarks combined into a cross-over API that you can share with others or collaborate on collectively, with wiki-like capabilities. It has a browser toolbar you can use to make managing or adding things to lists very easy.