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The people behind Windows 11: Working with communities to improve input and accessibility

Choi thought she’d end up in print design – even studying abroad in Switzerland in a school that specialized in print design – but changed her mind after she visited a Microsoft booth at a recruiting event. “I was blown away at how unexpected that experience was, back in 2013. You never really heard Microsoft and design put in the same sentence together, but I could tell these design leaders who came to our school really…

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Choi thought she’d end up in print design – even studying abroad in Switzerland in a school that specialized in print design – but changed her mind after she visited a Microsoft booth at a recruiting event.

“I was blown away at how unexpected that experience was, back in 2013. You never really heard Microsoft and design put in the same sentence together, but I could tell these design leaders who came to our school really believed in the vision and the power of what design could bring in,” says Choi, who grew up back and forth between the East Coast and South Korea. “There was just something super compelling about working for a company that had such a large reach and potential for impact that I think it was really contagious, that feeling.”

Choi has developed that feeling into listening to people and working with others within the company to evolve to their needs. Her team collaborated with teams working on hardware, which gave them insights into how people hold their devices, acknowledging the fact that not everyone has a desktop tower setup. They looked at how people used their PCs beyond a stationary desktop setup and observed the needs of people who prefer to work in fluid ways like on the couch and on-the-go. And places where typing when the keyboard and mouse aren’t readily available. It helped her and her team design around a variety of postures and environments.

Her team heard from customers that they wanted to use their voices to type and create content across these postures (physical arrangements of a user and their device), so Choi and her team embraced that.

These input solutions, such as Windows voice typing, also often have natural accessible outcomes as well. For example, although voice typing was initially designed primarily for a mainstream use case for convenient text entry across diverse device postures, the team found that the feature was also valuable for customers with physical impairments that made traditional typing difficult.

“That’s a game changer,” she says. “We really want to double down on those efforts.”

They made it easier for people to find the places where they could use their voice.

“We hope people find it an elegant solution that tries to really meet you where you are,” she says. “It’s reliable, it’s valuable and I hope people really get to try it out and see what the benefit is and for us to learn from that.”

What also meant a lot to her with this release was the rebranding of the Accessibility icon.

“Accessibility wasn’t an afterthought. All those aspects were important,” Choi says. “We wanted it to be consistent to that message of Windows 11 being this new journey and everyone’s included. What I like the most about the icon being a human figure is that we’re not just talking about one type of disability. We want to embrace the fullness of that range in the spectrum. And to recognize first and foremost, that what it means to be human means to have differences and diversity and to celebrate that. We really felt like the human figure really embraces those principles. We’re just getting started.”

Before she joined Choi’s input and accessibility team as a designer, Natassia Silva worked directly with people every day. As a manager at a sushi restaurant in San Francisco, she jotted down notes about regular customers, remembering names of family members, allergies and favorite dishes.

Natassia Silva

“I found myself learning about the customers, learning their habits, the menu and trying to find ways to improve the menu. I helped build it. I did things that were outside expectations,” she says. “But I was really passionate about not just making a business successful, but also making the people that come to it happy and have a memorable experience. I have a deep empathy for folks and learning and listening to feedback.”

Born and raised in Hawaii, Silva took some time to figure out what she wanted to do. She was always very creative. She loved computers, drawing and fashion. She even made her own zines. But she also knew she wanted to do something that helped people.

Silva went to The Academy of Art University and worked in the men’s fashion industry – doing a little bit of everything – before a chance meeting changed her life.

“I was at a point when I was considering going back to school for graphic design. I met someone at the restaurant that I was managing who was a UX [user experience] designer and he asked me, have you thought about UX design? He shared all these resources that sparked my curiosity. Long story short, I decided to move to Seattle just to switch it up, try a new city,” says Silva, whose cousin urged her to join a design program there. “On the very last day of my interaction design classes, my instructor was showing us portfolios of designers to look up to and one of them was the same designer I met in San Francisco who told me I should go into UX design.”

For Windows 11, Silva worked on the pen menu, the handwriting panel, the language switcher and the input method editor (IME) for East Asian languages. She also worked on accessibility settings such as text size, visual effects and color filters. But the bulk of her focus was on high contrast themes, something she wasn’t familiar with when she started.

She relied heavily on past research as well as talking directly to customers, especially those who have experience with needing/using such themes. The team worked with a low vision advisory board, made up of external customers who identify within the spectrum of low vision, whether it’s color blindness or light sensitivity.

“I didn’t realize how difficult it can be for them,” Silva says. “There are so many problems I wasn’t aware of.”

For instance, some folks had a hard time distinguishing where the borders of one window met the other when they had many windows open. Others would use the magnifier tool because they would have difficulty being able to view their display, so they would use that accessibility tool to zoom in. But when they zoomed in closely, it could be even harder to differentiate between various elements in the user interface. These insights helped Silva create more aesthetically pleasing contrast themes that give people more choices in what works for them.

“When it comes to human-centered design, it’s people at the root of it all and being able to empathize with our customers,” Silva says, of her approach to solving these pain points for users. “I was also very fortunate to work with a product manager who did identify as someone with low vision. It was helpful to have multiple perspectives and it’s those multiple perspectives and listening to those with lived experiences that helped shape and drive the design.”

Find out more about Windows 11 and check out previous stories about the people bringing Windows 11 to you that focus on widgets and the taskbar/Start.

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Soar the skies of Italy and Malta in latest free World Update for Microsoft Flight Simulator

Italy and Malta come alive with rich detail of the region’s grandeur in the latest free World Update of Microsoft Flight Simulator. “Fly throughout the historic cities of Rome and Venice, soar above Mediterranean coastlines and navigate sheer-faced peaks, all rendered in lifelike realism with World Update IX: Italy & Malta,” writes Jorg Neumann, Head…

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Italy and Malta come alive with rich detail of the region’s grandeur in the latest free World Update of Microsoft Flight Simulator.

“Fly throughout the historic cities of Rome and Venice, soar above Mediterranean coastlines and navigate sheer-faced peaks, all rendered in lifelike realism with World Update IX: Italy & Malta,” writes Jorg Neumann, Head of Microsoft Flight Simulator, in a post on Xbox Wire. “The Microsoft Flight Simulator team has refined this area with the latest geospatial data available, including digital elevation modeling, aerial and satellite imagery, and triangulated irregular network (TIN) modeling of 20 cities, including Rome, Naples, Venice and Milan.”

Head over to Xbox Wire for details and images from the update that is available now for free.

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Angry Birds comes to Minecraft

Hey Minecraft players: You can now download Angry Birds DLC on Minecraft Marketplace. “In this flappingly fantastic new world from the Oreville Studios and Rovio Entertainment, the pigs are up to their old tricks again, and it’s up to you to stop them,” writes Sophie Austin on Minecraft.net. “Playing as Red, your mission is to…

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Hey Minecraft players: You can now download Angry Birds DLC on Minecraft Marketplace.

“In this flappingly fantastic new world from the Oreville Studios and Rovio Entertainment, the pigs are up to their old tricks again, and it’s up to you to stop them,” writes Sophie Austin on Minecraft.net. “Playing as Red, your mission is to rescue your birdnapped pals, save your precious eggs and thwart the pesky pigs’ grand plans. Battle your way through a uniquely blocky Cobalt Plateau, over the dangerous Piggy Junkyard, through Summer Madness and across Pig City to try and find your friends.”

With each rescued buddy, you’ll unlock them as playable characters so you can use the unique skills of Red, Chuck, Bomb, Stella and more to your advantage.

Visit Minecraft.net to find out more and check out lots of images.

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ASUS launches new and refreshed ZenBook OLED and ROG Windows 11 PCs

ASUS has launched new Zenbook Pro and Zenbook S Windows 11 PCs, as well as a Strix SCAR special edition and Flow X16 through the Republic of Gamers (ROG). The Zenbook standard, convertible and dual-display laptops range in size from 13 inches to 17.3 inches, all with refreshed designs and the latest 12th Gen Intel…

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ASUS has launched new Zenbook Pro and Zenbook S Windows 11 PCs, as well as a Strix SCAR special edition and Flow X16 through the Republic of Gamers (ROG).


The Zenbook standard, convertible and dual-display laptops range in size from 13 inches to 17.3 inches, all with refreshed designs and the latest 12th Gen Intel Core H-Series processors or AMD Ryzen 6000 H-Series processors, along with an array of performance- and productivity-enhancing innovations. The Zenbook lineup comes with Windows Hello login through the PCs’ cameras and is Windows Ink capable through digital pens and touchscreens.

The flagship model in the new line-up is Zenbook Pro 16X OLED, a laptop made to foster on-the-go creativity. A 12th Gen Intel Core i9 12900H processor and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 GPU powers this PC within a 5.5-pound unibody that has been CNC-machined from super-tough aerospace-grade 6000-series aluminum alloy. And it’s just 0.65 inches slim.

Zenbook Pro 16X OLED

These high-performance components need to be cooled effectively in order to reach their full potential. This starts with the new ASUS IceCool Pro cooling system, which uses two quiet IceBlades fans. These cool the vapor chamber, while hot air is vented efficiently to the exterior via the new AAS Ultra mechanism that also tilts the keyboard by an ergonomic seven degrees. The result is that the CPU and GPU can run at up to a 140 W combined TDP in Performance mode without throttling and can run quieter than 40 dB in Standard mode. The high-capacity 96 Wh battery helps keep you going up to 10 hours to get through the most demanding workdays.

A 16:10 16-inch 4K OLED HDR 60 Hz 550-nit Dolby Vision touchscreen that’s PANTONE Validated for industry-standard color rendering completes the experience. It has a cinema-grade 100% DCI-P3 gamut and is VESA DisplayHDR True Black 500-certified.

The new Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED is a compact dual-screen creator laptop with a 14.5-inch 2.8K 120 Hz OLED display. It features a bigger and brighter next-gen 12.7-inch ScreenPad Plus secondary touchscreen, combined with the AAS Ultra auto-tilting design that improves cooling and ergonomics.

Zenbook Pro 14 Duo OLED

Users can configure this Intel Evo-certified PC with up to a 12th Gen Intel Core i9 12900H processor and creator-grade NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU. They’ll also find in it a 360-degree ErgoLift hinge and a HD IR camera for fast face login via Windows Hello. Automatic brightness and color adjustment comes through a combined ambient light and RGB color sensor. The Harman Kardon-certified quad-speaker Dolby Atmos audio system delivers ultra-realistic multi-dimensional sound for an immersive cinematic experience.


On the play front, the Republic of Gamers (ROG) introduced the new 2022 ROG Strix SCAR 17 Special Edition. This upgraded Strix SCAR houses a custom vapor chamber, paired with Conductonaut Extreme liquid metal applied to both the CPU and GPU, to push its hardware further than ever before.

ROG SCAR 17 SE

At CES 2022 in January, ROG introduced the 2022 Strix SCAR. For Computex 2022, the Strix SCAR 17 SE special edition variant comes with even more power under the hood. ROG engineered it for those who want a no-compromise, tournament-ready gaming machine.

The improvements start at the beating heart of the machine, powered by the brand-new Intel Core i9-12950HX, a 65W laptop CPU. It also has up to 64GB of blazing fast 4800MHz DDR5 RAM, PCIe Gen 4 storage in a RAID 0 array that leave loading times in the dust and a dedicated MUX Switch for peak gaming performance. Intel Wi-Fi 6E and a 2.5G ethernet port means gamers can confidently launch an online match from anywhere.

These high-end parts require powerful cooling to operate at peak performance – and that it has, thanks to ROG’s Intelligent Cooling innovations. ROG has used Thermal Grizzly’s liquid metal compound for the last three years, which reduces CPU temperatures by 10 degrees C compared to traditional thermal pastes. This year, ROG’s engineering team collaborated with Thermal Grizzly again to develop an even higher performance liquid metal formula called Conductonaut Extreme, which the SCAR 17 SE uses on both the CPU and GPU. Offering 5 degrees C lower temperatures than standard liquid metal thermal compound, this was the first step to unlocking the device’s true performance potential.

ROG Flow X16

Republic of Gamers also revealed the new ROG Flow X16. This 16-inch thin and light laptop is powered by an AMD Ryzen 9 6900HS processor and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Ti Laptop GPU, with support for the XG Mobile family of external GPUs, all while weighing 4.4 pounds. It features the flagship Nebula HDR Display, a QHD/165Hz Mini LED panel with 1100 nits of peak brightness and 100% DCI-P3 coverage. The new Frost Force Technology and Pulsar Heatsink powers three fans and a high density heatsink to keep performance high and temperatures low.

ROG has not sacrificed usability and upgradeability for this thin and light form factor. Both the DDR5 4800MHz memory and PCIe 4.0 SSD are accessible and upgradeable. The X16 supports up the 64GB of memory and comes with up to 2 TB of SSD storage. A second open M.2 slot makes it painless to drop in more storage for a scratch disk or larger game library.

As a member of the Flow family, portability and versatility were instrumental in the design of the X16. Featuring a full 360-degree hinge, gamers can transform their machine from a traditional clamshell laptop to utilize tent mode, maximizing airflow when using an external keyboard or gamepad. Or they can flip the display back into full tablet mode for more touch functionality.

This versatility also includes full support for the XG Mobile family of external GPUs. These compact enclosures house laptop variants of AMD and NVIDIA’s highest-performing discrete graphics chips, while being portable enough to carry in a backpack. These external GPUs also act as an I/O expansion hub, housing dedicated ethernet, USB-A, DisplayPort, HMDI 2.1 ports and an SD card reader. With a single connection, the X16 can be transformed into a full power battle station.

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