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Microsoft Build 2018: Cortana and Alexa integration, Your Phone app, and more

Here are the highlights from day one of Microsoft’s annual developer conference, Build 2018.

tech Updated: May 08, 2018 11:53 IST
Kul Bhushan
Kul Bhushan
Hindustan Times
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft watches a video during the Microsoft Developers Build Conference in Seattle.
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft watches a video during the Microsoft Developers Build Conference in Seattle.(Bloomberg)

Microsoft’s kicked off its annual developer conference, Build 2018 in Seattle on Monday. Microsoft, on the first day, made announcements focusing primiarily on artificial intelligence and cloud computing. Microsoft’s cloud service, Azure has a ton of new updates and features including partnerships with DJI and Qualcomm. Microsoft also surprised by announcing new features for Android and iOS users.

Azure
Microsoft has of late expanded its Azure platform to a wide range of services. It has also focused on making the platform available to more enterprise users across the world. At the Build 2018 conference, the company focused on further expanding its Azure platform, but with integration of smarter AI tools.

The company announced open-sourcing its Azure IoT Edge Runtime platform, making it available to all developers across the world. The platform will enable developers to build smarter connected things for home and enterprise users. It has also announced partnership with DJI for building smarter drones that can provide real-time data and use machine learning algorithms. Microsoft also announced partnership with Qualcomm for a Vision AI platform that leverages the company’s Azure IoT edge platform for camera-based IoT solutions.

Other important developments for new AI-driven Azure platform include a new Project Kinect platform and Project Brainwave. It also launched AI-based Remote Assist and Layout services for enterprise customers. READ: Everything Microsoft announced for its cloud service, Azure

Cortana
Microsoft is reviving its Cortana digital assistant by integrating it into more services such as Office 365 and workplace messaging application Teams. While the Cortana is being opened for more developers, Microsoft also revealed that it is working closely with Amazon where its digital assistant can communicate to the latter’s Alexa digital assistant. The integration will be rolled out pretty soon. READ: Microsoft Cortana to soon work with Amazon Alexa

AI for Accessibility
CEO Satya Nadella announced an “AI for Accessibility” initiative at the Build conference. The five-year accessibility initiative will include seed grants for startups, nonprofit organisations and academic researchers.

Here are the highlights from opening keynote at Microsoft Build 2018.

8:51pm: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella will deliver the opening keynote. He is likely to announce the latest number for Windows 10 installs. He is also expected to address issues related to privacy in the wake of Cambridge Analytica data scandal.

9:00pm: Microsoft Build 2018 officially begins.

9:01pm: Microsoft’s CVP Growth, and Ecosystem Charlotte Yarkoni talks about Project  Emma, the platform which is aimed at helping people with Parkinson’s disease.

9:02pm: Microsoft says this year’s Build conference is the biggest it had hosted ever.

9:06pm: Startups, developers and students -- Microsoft lists three key focus areas.

9:07pm: Microsoft says it is making significant investments in increasing its online space, making its services available to a larger number of users.

9:08pm: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella takes the stage.

9:09pm: “That’s new Microsoft” Satya Nadella on Bill Gates’ comments on rival Apple’s stocks.

9:11pm: Satya Nadella takes us back to the industrial revolution. The core technologies used in the revolution are invisible, observes Nadella.

9:12pm: Computing is becoming an integral part of our lives. From cars to drones, computing is becoming a key part in all walks of life.

9:16pm: Privacy is human right, says Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. “We make sure user is always in control of their data,” he said. We are making sure we comply with EU’s new privacy rules GDPR.

9:18pm: We need to work collectivity to protect cyber security.

9:19pm: Satya Nadella stresses on the need for ethical Artificial Intelligence (AI). “We need to make good AI,” he said.

9:21pm: Microsoft is working on secure machine learning and AI for users that protect their privacy.

9:23pm: The company is shifting Azure and Office 365 to smarter AIs. Here are three key focus areas for Azure.

Intelligent Edge core features (Microsoft)

9.24pm: Microsoft is integrating its different Azure platforms into one.

Integration of Azure services (Microsoft)

9:25pm: Microsoft has developed a dedicated AI for Internet of Things. The company has open sourced its Azure cloud platform for developers. ALSO READ: Build 2018: Everything Microsoft announced for its cloud service, Azure

9:28pm: Microsoft teams up with Qualcomm to build AI-enabled smarter cameras. The company also announced partnership with DJI for drones. DJI is launching an APK to build smarter drones, using machine learning and big data.

9:30pm: Nadella says its new Azure Sphere is a big opportunity for developers. Launched last month, Azure Sphere is a platform aimed at building secured, connected microcontroller unit (MCU) devices on the company’s “intelligent edge”.

9:32pm: Microsoft Director IoT Sam George takes the stage.

9:34pm:Here’s Qualcomm’s smart camera that uses Azure AI.

Qualcomm launches Azure-based smart camera (Microsoft)

9:35pm: Developers can now use Azure IoT edge for DJI’s drones.

The drone captures anomaly and sends real-time data feedback. (Microsoft)

9:37pm: Azure IoT Edge-powered drones can help monitor complex machines.

9:42pm:Nadella is back on the stage. He stresses the need for secured and customisable AIs.

A range of Azure AI services (Microsoft)

9:43pm: Nadella highlights AIs developed and deployed by Huawei and Xiaomi. He launches AI-based speech API which can be used for different devices.

9:47pm: Microsoft launches Project Kinect featuring Azure AI-based edge devices.

First look at Project Kinect (Microsoft)

9:49pm:Microsoft launches a new conversational AI which allows developers to build apps to automate replies, similar to Google’s smart reply and Facebook’s bot features.

9:54pm: Nadella launches Project Brainwave. It features real-time AI and five times lower hardware latency than TPU (tensor processing unit).

9:56pm: Windows + Office 365 -- Microsoft launches new multi-device strategy.

9:59pm: Microsoft to expand Office 365 suite to all platforms.

10:02pm: Cortana to be rolled out to most of Microsoft services, especially Office 365. Nadella says it is building a version of Cortana that can talk to other AIs. Microsoft is working with Amazon to make Cortana work with Alexa digital assistant. ALSO READ: Build 2018: Microsoft Cortana to soon work with Amazon Alexa

Cortana works with Amazon’s Alexa (Microsoft)

10:06pm: Cortana and Alexa can now talk to each other.

10:08pm:On stage at #MSBuild:

“Alexa, what do you think about Cortana?”

“I like Cortana. We both have experience with light rings, although hers is more of a #Halo.”

10:09pm: Microsoft launches Microsoft Remote Assist and Microsoft Layout platforms.The new platforms are aimed at using HoloLens mixed reality for modern workplaces.

10:16pm: The public preview of these two new mixed reality platforms will be available soon.

“With Microsoft Remote Assist we set out to create a HoloLens app that would help our customers collaborate remotely with heads-up, hands-free video calling, image sharing, and mixed-reality annotations. During the design process, we spent a lot of time with Firstline Workers,” says Microsoft on its website.

“We asked ourselves, “How can we help Firstline Workers share what they see with an expert while staying hands-on to solve problems and complete tasks together, faster.” It was important to us that Firstline Workers are able to reach experts on whatever device they are using at the time, including PCs, phones, or tablets.”

10:18pm: “With Microsoft Layout our goal was to build an app that would help people use HoloLens to bring designs from concept to completion using some of the superpowers mixed reality makes possible. With Microsoft Layout customers can import 3-D models to easily create and edit room layouts in real-world scale. Further, you can experience designs as high-quality holograms in physical space or in virtual reality and share and edit with stakeholders in real time,” says the company on its website.

10:19pm: Azure is certainly going to be the biggest highlight of the event. Here’s everything Microsoft announced for its cloud service, Azure

10:22pm: Microsoft is also focusing on its enterprise customers. The company is betting big on its Azure platform which is now much bigger with smarter AI tools.

10:23pm: Microsoft demonstrates how Cortana can be the smart office assistant. It can also create a live meeting feed with real-time transcriptions.

10:26pm: Cortana is also getting integrated with Microsoft’s Teams which competes with workplace messaging apps like Hangout and Slack.

10:27pm: Soon, you can access your phone notification on Windows desktop. The latest version of Windows 10 will allow you to mirror your phone’s features on PC.

10:36pm:Office 365 and Cortana come together.

Cortana gets a big push. (Microsoft)

10:41pm: AI for Accessibility - Microsoft launches new initiative for developers to build smarter tools for everyone.

10:43pm: That’s all from the opening keynote.

10:44pm: Microsoft’s opening keynote extensively focused on building smarter AI solutions for a variety of services. Azure and Cortana were the biggest focus areas for the company. Stay tuned for a comprehensive coverage on everything Microsoft announced.