indica News Bureau-
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella kick-started the company’s annual Build conference in Seattle, Washington, with major product announcements, such as Azure, Cortana, and the revamped Edge browser.
Nadella opened with Microsoft’s emphasis on what he called the core areas of trust: privacy, cybersecurity, and responsible AI, pointing to ElectionGuard, the open-source software the company is making freely available on GitHub at the end of this month to ensure “real transparency and verifiability in election systems” worldwide. Nadella revealed that Microsoft’s new research on homomorphic encryption would be integrated into the software development kit to allow the modernization of election infrastructure everywhere in the world. ElectionGuard is meant to ensure that every vote is not tampered with and is properly counted.
The keynote continued with a weighty focus on Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing service, which vies directly with Amazon Web Services to be the largest cloud provider in the world. Notable updates include Azure Speech Service, which enables impressively effective speech translation and transcription. In the demo, the service accurately transcribed the words of three people using the microphones of just two smartphones and a tablet and correctly identified which person spoke which words using voice recognition or a “voiceprint.” Nadella detailed how the service will generate transcripts which have the ability to understand jargon specific to each user’s industry and environment, making meeting transcripts that much more effective and useful.
A video featuring Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual personal assistant, showcased its ability to hold more natural conversations without wake words. Cortana interacted smoothly with the user through more than thirty dialog turns, speaking with her about her schedule just as another person or a human assistant would.
The new Edge browser, which utilizes Google’s open-source Chromium engine, includes an “IE Mode” which will allow businesses to open outdated websites directly in Edge with the Internet Explorer rendering engine, thus eliminating the need to use Internet Explorer directly. Nadella also pointed to Microsoft’s new focus on privacy enhancements within Edge, emphasizing transparency and choice as underlying principles. Edge will offer three levels of privacy controls allowing users to choose the degree of web trackers following their browsing activity.
Microsoft also unveiled major improvements to its developer environment, such as the launch of Windows Terminal, its new command line app, and the cross-platform expansion of Fluent Design System, its app design language, to enable a consistent app development experience across devices for creators. Developers will be able to use the language in Windows, Android, iOS, and the web.
Highlights in the realm of Augmented Reality (AR) included a showcase of Hololens 2, Microsoft’s new mixed-reality headset, and a brief teaser of a mobile Minecraft AR game which will be revealed on May 17. The Hololens 2 demo showed people in different locations holding a meeting using the Teams app (Microsoft’s answer to Slack) and interacting with 3D holographic images of each other, in a manner reminiscent of Star Wars or recent superhero films. Microsoft’s latest foray into AR appears to be bringing science fiction to life and making it a reality for businesses everywhere.