The last time I visited Seattle I was there as a technology consultant for my school system, presenting at a national technology and education conference on helping nonreaders write where companies like Microsoft, LeapFrog, Promethean, Scholastic, National Geographic, PBS, and Discovery Channel filled the vast expo hall. I never would have imagined 11 years ago that my next trip to Seattle would be with Microsoft to visit their campus. As an ambassador for Office 365 (#OfficeChamps) and Windows (#WindowsChamps), I received great tips on the tools I already use to help streamline my work even more, an inside look at the innovative technology that Microsoft is developing, and time to bond with my fellow #ChampionsSummit attendees which made the trip a perfect blend of fun and learning.
Streamlining Through Consistent Experience
If you use Windows 8 or 8.1, have a Windows Phone, or an Xbox, you’ve probably noticed how the experience is similar across devices. The ability to customize your start screen with live tiles that you can pull up on any Windows machine when you log in allows you to have the things you use whether you’re using your machine, a friend, or colleague’s. It means that the things you love and need access to constantly are on your PC, Windows Phone, and Xbox.
But you don’t have to be just a PC user to access your documents across platforms. As a Mac and PC user, I wrote about how I #GetItDone Anywhere & Anytime with Office 365, SkyDrive, and OneNote and how these tools were instrumental during my #ChampionsSummit trip.
Innovation at the Microsoft Envisioning Center
Thanks to a visit to the Microsoft Envisioning Center, I’ve seen the future and it’s pretty amazing. Microsoft believes that in the next 5-10 years, the digital and physical worlds will be brought closer together. It’s hard to put into words everything we saw (plus I’m under a NDA!) but I can say that technology will continue to have on the way we work, play, and interact with our families. Here’s a peek at what we saw courtesy of Microsoft’s YouTube Channel (so I know I’m not breaking my NDA) so you can imagine the future too.
Ever since visiting a Mini Maker Faire, our kids have been obsessed with 3D printing after seeing Makerbot models. It’s no surprise that a 3D printer is high on their list of holiday gift wants!
3D printing has been used by car manufacturers, aerospace companies, toymakers, and companies like Microsoft to build prototypes. Manufacturers often use it to model an object on a computer and print it using a variety of materials, from plastic to metal. Recently 3D printing has become more popular among the Maker community, do-it-yourself hobbyists, inventors, and design enthusiasts who are making everything from jewelry, purses, robotics components, and games.
While visiting Microsoft’s 3D printing lab, we learned more about the variety of techniques for 3D printing. One of the most common techniques for consumer 3D printing devices uses a spool of plastic filament as the raw material. The filament is fed into a melting chamber, where it’s heated and extruded as a thin strand of molten plastic filament. With this filament strand, the 3D printer draws shapes on a flat surface and fills them in- like using crayons in a coloring book. The filament sticks to itself to create the first thin layer of an object, cooling down as it goes. Then the 3D printer raises the print head and repeats the process, drawing on top of the previous layer to create a new, taller layer. This process is repeated until an entire object is created, which can then be removed from the 3D printer.
I have to admit that 3D printing is pretty cool and for kids, like mine, who are first drawn in by seeing plastic objects being printed from spools of filament is a great way to get them interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) since all are involved in creating finished 3D object.
But with technological innovation, there’s always the risk that it will be exploited for negative purposes. This week there was a headline story on CNN about a Texas company who made a metal gun with 3-D printer and used it to fire off 50 rounds. It’s incredible innovation but an emerging technology that could certainly be used to harm, rather than help.
I love our Xbox and Kinect because of the way it’s transformed gaming through an interactive experience. I’ve worked with Xbox and their Playful Learning team to talk about the impact of gaming on children’s education through immersive learning for kids but the new innovation of Xbox One goes farther to transform the way we think about entertainment and gaming. This all-in-one entertainment system brings together games, entertainment, and your PC experience, uses voice commands, features amazing graphics, and a Kinect that’s better than ever.
This week I wrote about the 13 Reasons Xbox One Will Rock Your Living Room for Babble Tech and if you want a more in-depth look, this 12 minute walk through video shows you how it works.
Sightseeing! If you have limited time in Seattle, make sure you do the following!
Visit the Space Needle, the must-visit landmark that looms over Seattle with a 360 view of the city from the observation deck. Nothing can beat the view from the Space Needle on any day but if there’s sun and blue sky during any part of your visit, getting a glimpse of Mount Rainier is a spectacular treat.
Soak in some culture at Chihuly Garden and Glass. Located at the base of the Space Needle, Chihuly is an incredible exhibit of the most exquisite blown glass works by renowned artist, Dale Chihuly, whose works occupy spaces in the Bellagio and places both in the United States and around the world. Take your time to explore the indoor exhibits and the outdoors as well. I’ve also heard that seeing the sculptures at night provides a completely different experience!
Take in the view from the Seattle Great Wheel. With enclosed gondolas to protect you from inclement weather, this ferris wheel is the tallest on the West Coast, standing 175 feet tall over the water over Elliott Bay.
Stop for a bite at Pike Place to grab a cup at the original Starbucks before going on the Savor Seattle walking food tour of the market where you’ll hear how the 550 pound bronze Rachel the Pig saved the market, witness the Pike Place Fish guys flinging fish, and sample the best of local flavors offered by the market. Also take in the grossness of the Gum Wall (down the steps by Rachel and Pike Place Fish and around the corner) and leave a piece of your own if you feel so inclined.
Learn some history thanks to the Underground Tour. Starting in Pioneer Square, soak in the beautiful surrounding architecture before descending and spending most of the tour underneath street level while learning about why so much of the original city is underground, why the city’s madams were so important, and well…toilets. It’s totally fascinating even if you aren’t a history lover!
For more photos from my trip, visit my Instagram feed or search #ChampionsSummit on Instagram.
As a member of #WindowsChamps I receive products for review and am a compensated member of #OfficeChamps. Microsoft paid for my expenses to attend the #ChampionsSummit but all opinions are my own.