Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Eyes Wide Open @ Microsoft Singapore

I had to chance to visit Microsoft Singapore and attend its Study Smarter seminar in January and it was certainly an eye opener. Touring one of the world’s largest technology companies certainly exposed me to a gamut of technologies. The seminar, held at the Microsoft Singapore headquarters at the NTUC Building on 16th of January, is part of a series designed to help tertiary students improve their studying and presentation skills. It was just as enlightening as the tour.
Read on to find out more!

Touring Microsoft HQ 

Microsoft Singapore is located along One Marina Boulevard.

There were students from various schools and ages when I attended the tour one evening. The tour was conducted by a representative from Microsoft and a UCrew ambassador called Zane.  UCrew is a program that allows tertiary students to experience and share Microsoft’s latest products and services with their student communities

The Server Room 

After the briefing, we started by taking a tour around the server room. It may sound uninteresting but trust me, it wasn’t.

The server room was environmentally-friendly and kept in a glass enclosure with blue lights all over. It’s also the room that makes it possible for all computers in Microsoft to function properly.

More to the Xbox Kinect than Meets the Eye

There was also a demonstration of the Xbox Kinect.  The UCrew ambassador explained how the Kinect can be used for other purposes apart from gaming. He demonstrated how it was possible to use the technology to try on clothing and fashion accessories virtually. Just wave your hand in front of the Kinect motion sensor to select the clothing and you can see yourself wearing new outfits right on the TV screen. It was very cool and I would love to see this technology in retail shops!

Touchscreens Everywhere

Touchscreens are all the rage. If you visit the Microsoft headquarters, you can even play with a touchscreen-enabled TV. Both run on Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 8.1. This just goes to show that more devices may be equipped with touchscreens in the future.

Beautiful Windows Devices

Since we were at Microsoft Singapore, we could see plenty of devices running on Windows, including Nokia Lumia Windows Phones and Microsoft Surface tablets. Since the tour was on-going, I didn’t have the time to play with the awesome gadgets. I like how the devices were very sleek, thin and stylish. They certainly look better than my current devices.

Microsoft Pixelsense

This may look familiar to you. It’s called the Microsoft PixelSense (formerly known as Microsoft Surface). If you have visited the NYP Library’s Lifestyle Hub during the past few months, you would have seen this on display. The device enables you to play games, create music, and finger paint through its 40-inch touchscreen. You can even place your phone on top of the huge touchscreen and it will give you information like the battery percentage of your phone and more. Unfortunately, the Microsoft PixelSense is only available for enterprises, businesses and large organisations.

The Gadget Room

We were also introduced to Microsoft’ other products like Microsoft Lync, a conferencing software similar to Skype but mainly for business professionals, and several teleconferencing devices and barcode scanners running on Windows Embedded. We were then led to the Microsoft Technology Centre that looks like a cross between a living room and an electronics store. The room was so cool and it’s great for IT gadget enthusiasts like me.

We got to rest and play around with Microsoft gadgets like Windows 8 All-in-Ones, laptops, tablets and phones. There was also an Xbox with a Kinect sensor for us to play games while waiting for the next phase of the tour.

3D printers are getting more common and their prices are decreasing (although still not that cheap). These printers can churn out 3D plastic objects using fancy technology and they’ve been a hit among engineers, architects and designers. I personally had not encountered a 3D printer before but when I saw it at the Microsoft Technology Centre, I was very excited.  This printer is called the MakerBot Replicator.

Unfortunately, it was switched off at the time but it still attracted a lot of attention. This was one of the 3D printed objects on display.

Where Microsoft Singapore Employees Work

We also went to check out the Microsoft Singapore office cubicles. Unlike a regular office with designated cubicles for employees, Microsoft implemented ‘hot-desking’ in the workspaces. Hot-desking is where employees can use any desk or computer they wish to use in the office to do their work. They just need to bring their other devices like USB drives and other work materials when using the workspaces.

Lockers were also available for employees to store their belongings when they’re working. Hot-desking minimises clutter, space and it improves collaboration among employees so that ideas come easily.
Large whiteboards were also available on walls for employees to write out ideas and have impromptu discussions.

Eating In

Of course, employees need to eat to refuel themselves. At every level, there were pantries and kitchens stocked with food and what’s unique is that the pantries are spacious and look like cafés. The eating areas offer food from Olio Bites, a café selling western fare like sandwiches, pasta and rice. Soft drinks and packet drinks are also available to Microsoft employees for free. There are plenty of cosy seats for employees to rest and relax. Power outlets are also available if one wants to work while eating. We were given free drinks and got to socialise with other students here.

Storytelling for Presentations

After the tour, we entered the Microsoft auditorium for our seminar - Storytelling for Presentations. Mr Tee Wee Ang from Young Speakers, a social enterprise that promotes public speaking, showed us how to give excellent and convincing presentations through storytelling. He also showed videos of experienced speakers like Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group and Derek Sivers, a TED Talks speaker. The videos and tips were useful, inspiring and very entertaining.

Unlike typical presentations, Mr Ang did not just talk from beginning to the end. He allowed volunteers to come up on stage to try their hand at storytelling. He also shared a story about a polytechnic student who received much funding and support for his startup due to his storytelling abilities. I took lots of notes. It was definitely very educational.

After Mr Ang’s talk, there were two other short talks. Another uCrew ambassador, who goes by the name of Jovan, demonstrated how Microsoft’s products can help students with studies and projects. He showed us a note-taking software called OneNote, Microsoft Office 2013, and the latest features on Windows 8.
The other talk was by a Microsoft certified external training company called Certiport. The spokeswoman talked about the importance of upgrading IT skills, and explained how certified employees add more value to their companies and help improve productivity.


My experience at Microsoft Singapore HQ was an interesting one and the seminar taught me a lot on how to improve my presentations, which is handy for my school projects. I also learnt how to make the most out of my Windows PC. It was a very fun session.
Don’t worry if you have missed out on the tour and seminar. There will be two more sessions happening on 16 April and 14 May – Preparing for the 21st century workforce and Sharpening your Presentation Skills. You can sign up for the sessions at http://www.facebook.com/UCrewSG or by emailing registerstudysmarter@outlook.com.

By Hanafi Bin Sedik, Year 2, Diploma in Engineering Informatics
I like to spend my free time and weekends exploring various places around Singapore, taking long walks at public parks and eating delicious food. Not only that, I also like to make videos, write on my personal blog and hang out with my awesome friends and family. I wish to work at a major software company and start my own production company in the future.

1 comment:

  1. Great insight into Microsoft and their Kinect for Windows Singapore apps and features!