clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Microsoft is overhauling its research arm so inventions become reality

New, 17 comments

Microsoft Research does a lot of impressive work. While the separate research teams have developed Xbox projectors and holodecks, Microsoft is often criticized for not bringing the technology to life. Microsoft's many inventions may hint at the future of technology, but far more often than not they're simply forgotten about. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is trying to change that.

Bloomberg Business has taken a closer look at Microsoft's research teams, and reports that Nadella saw a demonstration of speech recognition and wanted it turned into Skype Translator. That internal research demonstration took place in February 2014, and Nadella wanted a tool combined with Skype for his first public speech three months later. While it was a tight deadline, the team delivered and now Microsoft is shipping its Translator technology widely as part of the desktop version of Skype.

Microsoft wants its research teams to have a greater impact

Alongside Nadella's demand, Microsoft also started altering the way its research teams work with the broader company. Traditionally siloed, Microsoft reassigned more than half of its 1,000 research employees in September 2014 to a group called MSR NExT. It's designed to work on projects that aren't just pure research and have a greater impact. Additionally, the other half of Microsoft Research is "getting pushed to find more significant ways it can contribute to the company's products," according to Bloomberg Business.

Cortana, HoloLens, a cloud-powered Office, and other apps and services have all benefited from Microsoft's recent research changes. If Microsoft can keep the lines of communication and collaboration open between its research and product teams then there will undoubtedly be more examples in the months and years to come. Bloomberg Business highlights a particular example that Microsoft will want to avoid in the future. Bill Gates showed off one of the first digital mapping programs in 1998, built by late Microsoft Research scientist Jim Gray, but it never made it to market. Once Google Maps arrived in 2005, Bill Gates ordered Microsoft engineers to build its own version in 100 days.