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Microsoft Build lowdown: Bash, Xbox, HoloLens & more

Microsoft build

Microsoft has announced that its Windows 10 Operating System (OS) will get an update this summer with an added  Bash Shell programming feature—A Unix shell-based command line language, at its ‘Build developer conference’ held yesterday. The company claims to have up to 270 million Monthly Active Users (MAUs) on Windows 10, after it recently crossed 200 million MAUs in early January.

Here is a detailed list of updates that Microsoft had dropped during yesterday’s developer conference. Note that these updates are meant for developers, but general users can also test it out from the Microsoft’s developer portal.

Microsoft Cognitive Services: A set of 22 different Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) categorized across Vision, Speech, Language, Knowledge, and Search. Each category presents a wide variety of code to integrate cognitive functions including spell checking, facial tracking and motion detection in videos, speech recognition for individuals, smile prediction, and other recognizable emotional and physical gestures. For now, the APIs are in preview mode and Microsoft will soon charge for using some of its APIs.

Microsoft Bot Framework: The framework provides developers with a set of Software Development Kits (SDKs) that will help organizations and individuals to build computer bots. It does this by providing a ‘Bot Connector Service,’ and a Bot Directory, which will help discover and use existing bots as well. For example, CaptionBot is built by integrating Microsoft Cognitive Service’s Vision and Bing Search APIs along with the Bot Framework. The CaptionBot analyses images to create a coherent description of it, using natural language.

Cortana Intelligence Suite: Microsoft personal assistant Cortona will now be available as a managed big data and analytical suite to help businesses and individuals to record, analyse, and predict patterns, and to engage with customers online. Currently the suite can be integrated into products across manufacturing, financial, retail, healthcare, and PSUs.

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To demonstrate on a user level, Microsoft has integrated Cortona into the Skype app as a bot, which help users identify a person’s face through Cognitive API integration, places and things in your messages, underline them, and then display more information through a pop-up when clicked. Microsoft has already rolled out this service in Skype as a test to accept feedback from users.

Centennial desktop app convertor: With the new convertor feature, developers can easily convert Win32 and .NET apps into the AppX app format for use in the Windows store. It also enables developers to convert legacy apps and allow them to be deployed in Windows app store as a Universal Windows Platform app. This means older apps that were previously functional in older Windows OS versions will now have the chance to run across all Microsoft devices; pretty cool!

Bash Shell in Windows 10: Developers will now be able to write .sh Bash scripts on Windows, thanks to Microsoft’s step to integrate the GNU’s project Bash right into Windows 10. The company explained during the event this will work through a new Linux subsystem in Windows 10 that Microsoft has been building through partnership with Canonical—Ubuntu Linux’s parent company. The addition of bash will now allow developers to use GNU’s editors including emacs, vim, etc., as well as various Linux-only libraries straight from Windows.

Xbox as a development kit: With Microsoft adopting universal format for its apps, Xbox One moved to the Windows 10 platform, which also includes Microsoft’s PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Users can buy any retail Xbox One console and change it into a development kit to create applications that can be deployed on the Windows app store. The ability was previously available to ‘qualified game developers’ through ID@XBOX. Note that regular users will soon get Cortona integration on Xbox One also.

 HoloLens: Microsoft has started shipping its $3,000 HoloLens development kits; it also revealed a HoloLens emulator will allow a user to test holographic apps on a PC without a physical HoloLens, using a new development tool set. HoloLens apps can now be tested on PCs wherein environmental inputs that would normally be read by the sensors on the HoloLens are instead simulated using a keyboard, mouse, or an Xbox controller.

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