BARCELONA: LISTEN UP SMART TECH DEVELOPERS as Microsoft's Azure Connect is the hardware you'll likely want to put a load of artificial intelligence (AI) into networked devices.
Revealed at a product showcase at MWC alongside the HoloLens 2, the rather unassuming box that comes packed with all the hardware an AI system needs to figure out the crazy, complicated world we live in.
The dinky box packs in a depth sensor, high-definition camera and a spacial microphone array to essentially see and hear what's going on around it. But then connectivity to the cloud means it can then use piped processing power to crunch the visual and aural data it sucks up and then apply smart AI models.
"Azure connect is an intelligent edge device that doesn't just see and hear; it understands," said Microsoft.
If this all sounds familiar it because it kinda is, with Microsoft having taken tech from its now-defunct Kinect accessory for Xbox One and Xbox 360 consoles, and popped it in a smaller device.
The idea is the box will be used to create systems that use smart devices on the so-called edge of networks, so basically tech, sensors and things that are some way away from a central server or cloud.
Microsoft touted uses such as a system that could keep an eye on shoppers so that they can pick up something they want and leave the store but get automatically charged for it, thereby cutting down the need to have bored cashiers making tired small talk with the general riff-raff.
Another example was a system that watches over the elderly and people who aren't sound on their feet in hospitals, smartly noticing if they fall over in a medically problematic fashion and alert a nurse to go and help them. The idea is that medical staff will be able to get on with other stuff but know their patients are begin monitored regardless.
The Azure Connect is very much a box of tech aimed at companies and developers looking to create such systems for bigger businesses; it's not, for example, a device that'll sit nicely into your smart home.
Well, not yet it isn't, though who knows what some smart developers come up with. As such, the Azure Connect is an interesting little device that could pave the way for a lot more smart and useful networked devices and clever systems.
In the US and China for the time being, the Azure Kinect Developer Kit is available for pre-order for $399, some £310. µ
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