Microsoft’s research arm has apparently gotten tired of seeing Google get all the headlines for doing wild projects such as self-driving cars and weather balloons that serve as mobile Wi-Fi hotspots. According to ZDNet, Microsoft Research is creating a new Special Projects group that will work on “disruptive technologies that could benefit the company and society.” What’s more, ZDNet says that Microsoft has reeled in Norman Whitaker, the former deputy director at the Information Innovation Office at DARPA, to head up the group. DARPA, of course, is the U.S. Department of Defense’s special research arm that was responsible for bringing us the TCP/IP networking protocols that serve as the Internet’s foundation, among other terrific innovations.
So, what “moonshots” is Microsoft going to be cooking up in this new lab? ZDNet’s sources wouldn’t say, although Microsoft Research has actually been working on some pretty incredible projects for a while now such as a “smart elevator” that can predict where you’re going to go based on your regular usage patterns, and a way to use the Xbox’s Kinect sensor to help people recover from strokes. Even so, these projects simply don’t get the hype that Google’s “moonshots” do, so perhaps this new initiative is designed to work on research that’s calibrated to get everyone’s attention.