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SELF on the Road Blog - Day 3: Seattle

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Day three of SOTR began with an early start at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, WA. We were greeted at Microsoft by KU Aerospace Engineering alumnus Mike Zyskowski. Our first tour took us into the home and workplace of tomorrow through their Envisioning Center. This unique exhibit showcases how Microsoft imagines technology continually integrating into our lives. SELF Fellows experienced the seamless integration of voice control, device communication, and machine learning techniques to improve the way that we interact with our technology.

Next, Mike introduced us to Mary Snapp, the Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of Microsoft Products and Services. Mary is also a KU graduate, and she shared many of the legal considerations that are involved with the engineering products and services at Microsoft. The SELF Fellows enjoyed an engaging dialogue about user privacy, copyright law, and data extradition practices. Mike was able to share his insight into the engineering challenges and opportunities with Microsoft Research.

Our other tours at Microsoft’s Redmond campus included an exciting look into several hardware research labs. These facilities had cutting-edge 3D printing technologies, laser cutting machines, and advanced optics equipment. Additionally, their researchers presented an application of automated drone technologies for public health research. Finally, we witnessed the developments of another Microsoft research team working to provide enhanced human-computer interaction for people with physical disabilities, specifically for those suffering from ALS.

The SELF Fellows’ next stop was at the brand new SpaceX office in Redmond. This team is embarking on Elon Musk’s latest vision for worldwide satellite internet coverage by preparing for the launch of 4,000 satellites into low-earth orbit. This young office is looking to expand rapidly by hiring close to 500 new employees to support SpaceX’s new mission. The Fellows benefitted from a stimulating discussion with the team’s lead engineers to learn about the challenges of expanding internet coverage worldwide.

We finished our busy day with a KU Alumni Association reception for area Jayhawks. All of us really enjoyed meeting with the variety of KU grads represented at the reception, and maybe some of us with join their chapter soon!



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