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Microsoft let a bunch of top sci-fi authors into its research labs -- and the results are amazing

Microsoft HoloLens holo studioMicrosoftThe Microsoft HoloLens holographic goggles, a project that started in Microsoft Research.

In late 2015, Microsoft published a free e-book anthology of science fiction stories called “Future Visions: Original Science Fiction Stories Inspired by Microsoft.”

I know. I was sceptical, too. It came out in early November, but now that I’ve actually had a chance to read “Future Visions,” it’s actually super great!

Featuring stories from Elizabeth Bear, Greg Bear, David Brin, Nancy Kress, Ann Leckie, Jack McDevitt, Seanan McGuire, Robert J. Sawyer — all big names in the world of science fiction — each story revolves around one of the weird science projects that Microsoft Research is working on.

Microsoft Research, the company’s R&D skunkworks, leads the development of some of Microsoft’s most far-out ideas. The Kinect sensor was born from Microsoft Research, and so were the Microsoft HoloLens holographic goggles. Other projects include machine learning technology “Project Oxford,” artificial intelligence, and more.

“The authors all had the opportunity to visit with our researchers to hear about their latest thinking and see their leading-edge work, and to create fiction inspired by that work,” writes Microsoft’s Harry Shum, who oversees Microsoft Research, in the book’s introduction.

Seanan McGuire’s anthology-leading story, for instance, deals with real-time translation, as of the kind used by Microsoft’s Skype Translate. Like a lot of the stories, it has a twist I won’t spoil here, but it raises interesting questions around the potential for the technology.

A standout story, to me, was Nancy Kress’ “Machine Learning,” which, as the name suggests, is about the ability for computers to teach themselves and evolve. But it’s about people, too.

Long story short, “Future Visions” is free, it’s available for just about every ebook format including Amazon Kindle, and it’s well worth reading, and even includes a short graphic novel from Blue Delliquanti and Michele Rosenthal.

Grab a copy and have yourself some good reading over the long holiday weekend.

NOW WATCH: Here’s Microsoft’s amazing vision for what the HoloLens can do

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