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The people behind Windows 11: Using psychology, familiarity and inspiration to create widgets

Before moving to Seattle with her husband seven years ago, Priya Chauhan had never worked in digital design. She came from the print publishing world, where she worked on children’s books, coffee table books, travel guides, catalogs, window display posters, chocolate and biscuit tins and all kinds of seasonal marketing.   If you lived in London…

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Before moving to Seattle with her husband seven years ago, Priya Chauhan had never worked in digital design. She came from the print publishing world, where she worked on children’s books, coffee table books, travel guides, catalogs, window display posters, chocolate and biscuit tins and all kinds of seasonal marketing.  

If you lived in London at that time, you probably saw her designs throughout the city and in magazines. 

Priya Chauhan (Photo by Ulysses Curry)

But once she started working for Microsoft five years ago, she entered a fast-moving space where she could make global impact. (The first time she used a PC or Windows was her first day at the company. Now she only uses PCs and Windows.) Chauhan started on services and store fronts, then Microsoft Rewards. Then she moved to the Windows team. As a designer working on a new, signature feature for Windows 11 – widgets – she measured success by one thing: how it could make people happy. 

She wanted something that would give people a peek into what’s most important to them. Widgets, which may be familiar to anyone who’s used a smartphone or tablet, offer a personalized pop-up collection of information on weather, sports scores and other bits of information.  

“You don’t have to switch between devices and break your workflow,” says Chauhan, whose own work last year was paused when she had her first child. “With one swipe you can access the widget board, which gives you just a quick glance to what you need to know. Like, when is my next meeting? Is it going to rain when I go for my run? The quick kind of information you need without stopping to check your phone and then come back.” 

She drove the user interface of the widget experience, its visual framework that includes color, typography and layouts. Chauhan drew inspiration from a variety of sources – everything from the big, bold typefaces on coffee packets to the soft color palette animations of weather apps. She gathered images that sparked her creativity in digital mood boards. With her background in graphic design, she’s always looking at core foundations and elements: layout, negative space color and hierarchy. 

And with widgets, she and her team weren’t going to reinvent the wheel. 

“We’re just trying to bring it in line with what people are used to using,” Chauhan says. “What we’ve tried to do with Windows 11 is make it not just about work, but also about play, home, family and entertainment. I think people probably are going to be surprised. I think it’s just a fresh outlook for us and it’s really going to resonate with people.” 

Dorothy Feng also worked on widgets – as a user experience (UX) designer who incorporated her background in psychology in improving the experience. 

Dorothy Feng (Photo by Ulysses Curry)

As a student at Duke University, she originally thought she would end up in clinical psychology or research. But she had always been interested in design, teaching herself Photoshop and creating freelance illustrations in her free time. 

Then, in her sophomore year, she joined a tech group at the school called Hack Duke, which focused on organizing hackathons. She became the group’s director of design, which entailed marketing assets such as branding and website design. That led to more exposure to people in the tech space and consulting for tech incubation start-ups, which is how she began to do UX design. 

Feng also took a computer science class. She did well and thought she was going to be a software engineer. But she met someone who interned as a product designer, who introduced Feng to the intersection of design and tech – a combination that appealed immensely to her. It would change the course of her life, as she had never thought that there was a way to combine art/design with technology. 

“It was a huge shift in my career path,” says Feng, who interned for Microsoft before starting a full-time position in 2018. “I majored in psychology and computer science and at that time, I did not see an intersection. Someone told me those are two completely opposite things; how would I make that work? But, I’m interested in both. When I studied psychology, I was very deeply rooted in writing and focused on research, but on a higher level that has helped me approach design in a very methodical way.” 

But the artsy side of Feng draws inspiration from nature, its simplicity and complexities, as well as daily life, appreciating what she sees around her when she’s walking in her neighborhood. She even gets ideas from the grocery store, through how aisles are laid out and the checkout experience. 

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Accelerate sustainability progress and business growth with Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability — starting June 1

It’s a moment we’ve been building toward — new capabilities from Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability that will enable faster, broader transformation for organizations at varying stages of their sustainability journey. We are pleased to announce the general availability of Cloud for Sustainability on June 1. Now, a growing set of ESG (environmental, social and governance)…

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It’s a moment we’ve been building toward — new capabilities from Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability that will enable faster, broader transformation for organizations at varying stages of their sustainability journey. We are pleased to announce the general availability of Cloud for Sustainability on June 1.

Now, a growing set of ESG (environmental, social and governance) capabilities from Microsoft and our global ecosystem of partners will give organizations the opportunity to accelerate their progress and business growth.

Watch the video.

Turning sustainability commitments into action with better data intelligence

To stabilize our future and build more quickly toward a global net-zero carbon economy, organizations of all types, sizes and sectors are facing the need to transform common practices. This includes more effectively managing their environmental footprint, embedding sustainability through their organizations and value chains, and making strategic business investments that drive value. And this starts with solving a data problem.

Organizations need more accessible, centralized data intelligence to make the high-stakes decisions that are required right now to address complex issues, weighing both business and ESG criteria to direct capital toward investment opportunities that balance growth and impact.

Wherever organizations are in their sustainability journey, together, we can accelerate progress to reach our collective goals.

Microsoft is energized about helping our customers accelerate their progress. Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability solutions will provide the intelligence and data management capabilities organizations need to respond to changes with agility and confidence.

Building on more than a decade of work on sustainability

Our own sustainability journey began when we set our first carbon goal more than a decade ago. This led us to better organize our data and realign our company’s vision and strategy with our sustainability goals. We continue to build on our commitments to innovate and invest in technologies that address environmental sustainability and to transparently share our achievements and setbacks so that we can all learn together. We’re also considering how to deliver on our ESG commitments while continuing to grow our business and drive shareholder value — not an easy challenge!

Now, with the release of Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, we’re bringing together powerful capabilities delivered by Microsoft and our partners to help organizations:

Unify data intelligence. To effectively drive sustainability reporting, sustainability efforts, and business transformation, organizations need better visibility into activities across their enterprise and value chain. Collecting and connecting IoT data from devices using sensors — combined with rich services at the edge or in the cloud — provides the basis to monitor and measure activities at scale. And now, Microsoft Sustainability Manager will empower organizations to more easily record, report and reduce their environmental impact through increasingly automated data connections that deliver actionable insights.

This extensible Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability solution centralizes previously disparate data in a common data format and offers organizations an increasingly comprehensive view into the emissions impact of their entire operations and value chain.

Sustainability Manager is available for a free test drive or to purchase June 1.

Build more enduring IT infrastructures. Organizations can reduce their environmental impact and increase business value when they replace tools, systems, or activities with more efficient options. Moving workloads to the cloud, for example, can increase both carbon and energy efficiencies. Emissions Impact Dashboard applications provide Microsoft customers with transparency into emissions produced from their use of Microsoft cloud services. Devices also contribute to an organization’s environmental footprint. Surface devices maximize sustainability of materials and extend product life while minimizing product carbon footprint and energy consumption.

Reduce the environmental impact of operations. With digital solutions delivered through Microsoft and our growing partner ecosystem, we’re already helping organizations maximize asset and production efficiencies, reduce the environmental impact of their buildings and spaces, and advance their transition to clean energy.

Create more sustainable value chains. Digital technologies are also helping organizations facilitate greater transparency and accountability through their value chain, from raw materials to product creation to distribution. A data-first approach can help organizations achieve data integrity and gain the visibility they need to drive efficiencies, reduce emissions and design out waste.

Learn more about how we’re helping organizations achieve positive impact on Microsoft.com/sustainability.

Global partners, a critical piece to extending impact

Much of this important work is being achieved through collaboration with our global ecosystem of partners who have helped us land our ambitions and transform our business. Today, they’re also pivotal to helping customers advance sustainability through robust, innovative solutions powered by the Microsoft Cloud.

Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability partner solutions span industries, from transportation to real estate to manufacturing, such as these early solutions that are already in market:

There are many more solutions coming. Our sustainability partner ecosystem also includes trusted advisers like these, who are actively helping organizations plan, design and implement strategies to enable sustainable growth:

Learn more about breakthrough work being done by our sustainability partners on Microsoft AppSource.

What’s next?
Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability availability coincides with Hannover Messe 2022. Watch for news and announcements around this keystone industry event — and stay tuned for additional solutions and capabilities.

Tags: Cloud, Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability, sustainability

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Babylon.js 5.0: Key Engine Advancements – Part 3

Our mission is to create it one of the most powerful, beautiful, and simple web rendering engines in the world. The latest Babylon.js 5.0 engine packs a ton of new improvements to help you create stunning experiences. Unlimited Morph Targets No matter what you call them, Blend Shapes, Shape Keys, or Morph Targets, Babylon.js 5.0 adds…

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Our mission is to create it one of the most powerful, beautiful, and simple web rendering engines in the world. The latest Babylon.js 5.0 engine packs a ton of new improvements to help you create stunning experiences.

Unlimited Morph Targets

No matter what you call them, Blend Shapes, Shape Keys, or Morph Targets, Babylon.js 5.0 adds rocket fuel to your ability to use influenced vertex positions. This new feature now gives you literally unlimited amounts of Morph Targets. Want to have a complex animated face with thousands of Morph Targets to get that perfect expression? Now you can, all in the web, all for free!

See it in action here: Unlimited Morph Targets Demo

Learn more: Unlimited Morph Targets Documentation

YouTube Series: Tech Artist’s Journey YouTube Playlist

Order Independent Transparency

Rendering transparent objects is complicated! The Babylon.js Platform has always strived to make it as easy as possible to help you inform the system of rendering order, alpha index, run depth-prepasses, and much more, so your scene can look correct. With Babylon.js 5.0 we’ve wrapped a bow on it all. All of the complexity of rendering transparent objects can now disappear with one single, simple line of code:

Try it out: Order Independent Transparency Demo

Learn More: Order Independent Transparency Documentation

WebXR Advancements

WebXR is an incredible web standard allowing web developers to create amazing cross-browser XR experiences. Using WebXR to add a mobile AR component to your web site can be a simple and fun way to engage your readers/users even further. While the technology to render world-locked 3D objects has existed in Babylon.js for some time, Babylon.js 5.0 steps the beauty-factor up several notches with the introduction of Light Estimation. This powerful yet easy-to-use new feature allows your Babylon.js scenes to estimate the light in your real-world location and automatically match the lighting and shadows of your virtual world-locked object. This creates a cutting-edge level of immersion between the physical and digital worlds…and it’s all here in Babylon.js…all for free! Babylon.js 5.0 also adds support for WebXR image tracking and WebXR Layers!!!

Check it out on your Android Phone: Light Estimation Demo, Image Tracking Demo

Learn More: Light Estimation Documentation

glTF Updates

The Babylon.js Platform prioritizes support for the absolute latest and greatest advancements to the glTF file format. This means every new version of Babylon.js unlocks new beautiful advancements in rendering capabilities, and Babylon.js 5.0 turns up the heat! With full support for KHR_materials_volume, KHR_materials_transmission, and KHR_materials_ior, you can now render some absolutely STUNNING visuals!

Check it out: KHR_materials_volume Demo

Learn More: KHR_materials_volume, KHR_materials_transmission, KHR_materials_ior

Mixed Reality Toolkit for Babylon.js

Babylon.js 5.0 also adds updated support for the world’s most advanced 3D interface component library, Mixed Reality Toolkit. This advanced library makes it incredibly easy to add advanced XR UX elements into your Babylon.js scenes such as: holographic slates, 3D Sliders, Touch Holographic Buttons, Touch Mesh Buttons, and much much more!

Check it out: MRTK Demo

Learn More: MRTK Documentation

Material Plugin Manager

When it comes to creating real-time shaders power, performance, and flexibility are critical! Babylon.js 5.0 brings introduces a brand new feature that doubles down on all of three. The Material Plugin Manager gives you the ability to add custom code to any Babylon.js shader. This means that you can fully customize any advanced shader, such as PBR, to go even further. The Material Plugin Manager provides developers with the flexibility to fully customize the power, performance, and look of any shader!

Check it out: Material Plugin Manager Demo

Learn More: Material Plugin Manager Documentation

Much Much More

Wow that’s a lot, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg! Improved Shadow Performance, Vertex Animation Textures, a brand-new Build System, there’s more to Babylon.js 5.0 than you can imagine! Want a full view of everything that’s new? For a full list of features, enhancements, and fixes you can head on over here.

Babylon.js 5.0 launches the Babylon.js platform to incredible new heights and we cannot wait to see you reach for the stars with it!

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In their mission to diversify STEM education, twin brothers use Windows 11

Twins Miles and Malik George are almost always in sync. They graduated at the top of their high school class as co-valedictorians. At MIT, these bioengineering students embraced and expanded upon their love of science. They were also in multiple diverse groups on campus such as Nu Delta Fraternity, The Standard, and Laureates and Leaders.…

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Twins Miles and Malik George are almost always in sync.

They graduated at the top of their high school class as co-valedictorians.

At MIT, these bioengineering students embraced and expanded upon their love of science. They were also in multiple diverse groups on campus such as Nu Delta Fraternity, The Standard, and Laureates and Leaders.

This last program is dedicated to helping under-represented students get Ph.D.s or M.D./Ph.D.s and has a selective entry process. The two fondly remembered the program as instrumental in shaping their academic careers.

They worked with MIT Admissions as Admissions Ambassadors to increase the number of underrepresented students that apply to and attend the university. On campus and virtually, they worked in several biological engineering labs. They’re about to graduate and will be pursuing Ph.D.s in Biological Engineering at MIT.


They’re both passionate about bringing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) to under-served communities through hundreds of funny and informative lessons posted to TikTok and other social media. Their mix of memes, dances and trivia reach all kinds of audiences. They teach what they find exciting about science.

“The more curious you are about one subject, the more you learn about that subject, the more curious you become about everything else,” Miles says. “Curiosity is the reason why people keep innovating. And so as long as people are curious, people will keep learning.”

“Curiosity leads to solutions, you know?” Malik adds.

The brothers will host a private virtual education event for students May 17 in partnership with Microsoft Stores. This session will reach 10,000 students and will feature an inspirational fireside chat, STEM demonstration and interactive Q&A.

The twins strive to be role models for the next generation, to inspire them to follow their dreams.

“In high school we did a lot of science fairs. Being able to count on your hand how many people look like you in a room of over a hundred people, it’s pretty sad,” Malik says. “As we became involved in science ourselves, we wanted to make sure that people saw there are people that look like us in the field and that they can and should feel welcome to do so as well.”

They’re both PC gamers who enjoy comic book universes and socializing with their many friends.

They are part of a tight-knit family, helping their parents with gardening and jigsaw puzzles, watching movies together and doting on the senior Shih-tzu (who is the fifth member of their household).

But they are also individuals.

Malik is the “explainer.” As his brother shares, “He’s going make sure that if he’s telling you about something, you know everything that there is about the topic and he’s going make sure you understand it at the end of the day.”

“If I’m the explainer, then Miles is the convincer,” says Malik. “You know, he can summarize any topic – no matter how advanced – in a couple sentences to any age group and they’ll understand it.”

This works well when they’re doing presentations, which have reached more than 1,000 students remotely (ranging in age from late elementary school to high school seniors) since January 2021. They’ve been getting more interest about K-12 presentations and plan to continue those.

“I’ll do the intro. He does methods and results. I do the conclusion. He gives you the scientific know-how, how to learn. Then I bring it back at the end,” Miles says.

They also have different work styles – though both are also lifetime PC users. For as long as they can remember, they’ve always been on Windows, starting from their childhood.

“If you were to look at my desktop, you will see at least three applications open at once. If you look at Miles’ desktop, you’ll see one application open, but he’ll have three desktops that he’ll switch between,” Malik says.

Multiple desktops are one of Miles’ favorite Windows 11 features.

“I have one program that I’m focused on. When I’m done focusing on it, I’ll switch to another desktop and that’s what I’m working on then,” he says. “Each assignment gets its own desktop, and I will get to it when I get to it.”

They’ve discovered other Windows 11 features that make them even more efficient.

“As a student, I am constantly searching through emails, especially through keyword search,” Malik says. “I globally search by who sent it or a keyword and it will just show up right there. And I can read it or I can click it and reply from the same place. Windows 11 really takes away flipping back and forth between things. And then anything that you don’t have open, you can also just go through the Start menu.”

They also make great use of Snap Assist.

“I can have an essay snap to the right on Word. I can have some internet research article on the left,” Malik says. “And then if I need to check my email, it would just pop up in the center and I don’t have to cover what I was already working on.”

They like that they can tailor Windows 11 to what works best for each of them.

“It really feels like a personalized experience when I’m online. And it really visually is a much better experience than what I’m used to,” Miles says. “As a researcher, I’m used to a lot of diagrams, a lot of graphs. It really combines multitasking with this beautiful element of note taking and annotating directly on the screen.”

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