I was duly impressed this evening. Brett Brewer, the GM of Microsoft Live Labs put on a kick-ass demonstration of Microsoft’s latest web browsing technologies. The event was hosted by MITX, and was held at Fidelity’s Center for Applied Technology (who knew Fidelity even had a center for applied technology?) It was a beautiful venue with environmentally-friendly decor mixed with high-tech gadgets.
Microsoft is bucking the system with Live Labs. Their approach is almost like a web-browsing bill of rights. Brett repeatedly voiced his dissatisfaction with how data is provided online, and how poor online image quality is. The reason for his impatience is because Microsoft has found a way to solve this with three products ready for prime time now; Pivot, Seadragon, and Photosynth.
Pivot lets a user view large quantities of data in a useful and easy to understand way. Pivot can dynamically display data according to any number of criteria, and it does so in real-time, without having to wait for loading bars, or placeholder image blocks. Check out this introductory video.
Seadragon, (or Zoom.It as it is now called) eliminates the need for low-res, crappy quality images on the web. Every image online can be super high-resolution. Sound like a dream come true? It does this by loading only the data needed at each magnification level. See it work on their website. Goodbye 100px thumbnails!
Photosynth digitally stitches separate photos together to create a seamless scene where you can rotate, advance into, or zoom out of. The complex software identifies the hard corners in the photos and them lines them up. It even warps areas that are wrapping around corners. And it displays online in real-time as if it were a pre-made zoom or pan.
See all three of these technologies presented in this demo:
While Microsoft’s Silverlight plugin enables and enhances these tools, some of them can also be incorporated without a plug-in via their API and AJAX. And it does it all in real-time over the Internet. Microsoft is helping us rethink the way we use the Internet and data online in a positive and proactive way. Big brother, now I’m watching you.