[This story is running in the print edition of The Seattle Times March 1, 2013.]
Put a skillet on your stove as you prepare to make a stir-fry, and an interactive chef on the big screen in your kitchen tells you a wok would probably work better.
Take a sketch of something you’ve been drawing on your tablet, and swipe it over to a large digital screen that doubles as your work surface. Then get that sketch to appear on a huge wall screen so that you and a co-worker halfway around the world can work on the sketch simultaneously.
Those are some of the scenarios Microsoft says could happen in the next five to 10 years — and has brought to life now in its new Envisioning Center, which opens Friday.
For nearly 20 years, Microsoft has had the Microsoft Home (also referred to as “Home of the Future”) in a building on its Redmond campus. In that facility, Microsoft replicates a home outfitted with technologies that it thinks will be in use five to 10 years in the future.
Since 2002, Microsoft’s Office division has had a similar futuristic workplace that includes productivity technologies.
Now Microsoft has combined the two to form the Envisioning Center, a completely revamped home and office of the future, complete with a “third place” area meant to represent spaces such as retail stores and restaurants.
It’s like a concept car, said Jonathan Cluts, Microsoft’s director of strategic prototyping. Not every single thing will come to be in five or 10 years, but “we’re going to show you a future that we believe in, that we are investing in.”