Tech Innovation

Microsoft Build 2017: Cloud clipboards, Fluent Design and mixed reality controllers

Dean Evans Technology Writer Twitter

While the Microsoft Build 2017 conference is primarily focused towards software engineers and web developers, this year’s event had some interesting announcements about Windows 10 that will impact all PC owners.

Hot on the heels of April’s Windows 10 Creators Update, which added Mixed Reality support and the Windows 10 Game Mode, Microsoft has revealed that a new Fall Creators Update is on the way.

Cross-device experiences

This next big Windows 10 add-on will reportedly focus on improving cross-device experiences, letting you start something in an app on a Windows 10 PC and continue it, in the same app, on an Android or iOS device.

Part of the Microsoft Graph, it’s described as “an intelligent fabric that helps connect dots between people, conversations, projects and content within the Microsoft Cloud — ensuring experiences flow seamlessly between Windows, iOS and Android devices.”

What this means in practice is that you will get access to a new visual Timeline that shows you the files, apps and websites you’ve been using. Cortana’s Pick Up Where You Left Off feature will keep track of where you were and what you were doing, syncing progress across devices and using a Cloud Clipboard to let you copy content from your desktop and paste in into your phone. Or vice-versa.

Windows 10 and Fluent Design

It’s not the only change to watch out for in the Fall Creators Update. Microsoft is planning some visual tweaks to the Windows 10 UI too, an upgrade to the existing ‘Metro’ visuals that will add extra light, depth, blur and motion.

This so-called ‘Fluent Design’ approach also fits into Microsoft’s focus on cross-device experiences, one that will include mobile devices, tablets, Surface Studio, Xbox and Mixed Reality systems inspired by HoloLens.

Microsoft also announced a new Windows 10 app at Build 2017 called Story Remix. Like Google’s Assistant and Facebook Stories, Story Remix will attempt to intelligently pull together certain photos and videos (by subject matter, location, or date) to transform them into stories.

Story Remix and Mixed Reality

“Story Remix brings memories, photos and videos together to create stories with a soundtrack, theme and cinematic transitions,” says Microsoft. “Users can also create mixed reality by adding 3-D objects to photos and videos to tell stories in a whole new way, or turn photos and videos into a canvas, drawing on them with Windows Ink.”

Speaking of Microsoft’s Mixed Reality platform (formerly known as Windows Holographic), Build 2017 saw Redmond unveil the first Windows Mixed Reality motion controllers. Equipped with LEDs, the controllers will enable responsive motion tracking and are designed to work with the sensors in future Windows Mixed Reality headsets.

Expect support for these controllers to be baked into the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, with the hardware going on sale close to Christmas. Acer’s Mixed Reality headset, for example, is reportedly being bundled with the new controllers for just $399.

With over 500 million machines running Windows 10, Microsoft isn’t resting on its laurels. Build 2017 is a rallying cry to developers, hoping to encourage them to create Universal Windows Apps and make them available on the Windows Store. New hardware, like the Surface Laptop, and improved cross-device functionality using Cortana and are means to that end.

Your next PC is about to get a whole lot friendlier.

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