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Microsoft’s annual Build conference just wrapped up its 11th edition. Aimed at showcasing Microsoft’s latest technologies for developers, the event was jam-packed with over 330 presentations, covering everything from Azure and IoT to games and productivity.
We want to share with you some of the conference’s recurring themes, how they align with our own visions and technologies, and what they mean for you, the developer.
Project Volterra and the Qualcomm Neural Processing SDK for Windows
Microsoft and Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. (QTI) announced Project Volterra, a new Windows developer kit powered by our Snapdragon compute platform. The dev kit will provide you with our powerful hardware for Windows on Snapdragon (WoS) for use with a set of tools to build native Windows apps.
The unit, made from recycled ocean plastics, is eco-friendly and stackable. It runs all of your favorite tools, including Visual C++, Modern .NET 6 and Java, Classic .NET Framework, Windows Terminal, WSL and WSA for running Linux and Android apps, as well as native versions of Visual Studio 2022 and Visual Studio Code to develop, test, and debug on WoS. It also incorporates our Qualcomm AI Engine, which lets you build Windows applications that execute on-device AI-accelerated workloads with extreme performance and efficiency.
You can also use it with our new Qualcomm Neural Processing SDK for Windows for hardware-accelerated ML inference in your Windows apps when running on Snapdragon. The SDK includes all of the tools you need to optimize and run ML models on the Qualcomm Hexagon processor, the core of our Qualcomm AI Engine, using popular ML frameworks. Running on Hexagon frees up the GPU and CPU so that inference is performed in parallel, for the best possible power efficiency and performance for the business logic of your Windows apps.
Hybrid Cloud-Edge AI
Several presentations covered hybrid AI where inference is distributed between the cloud and the edge. We’ve also noted the growing trend towards performing AI at the edge, right where the data is collected. Delivering low latency and high performance while maintaining security (e.g., minimizing the data sent out) is a big driver of hybrid AI.
Azure plays a pivotal role here with services like Azure IoT, which collects and monitors data from IoT devices. Azure is aligned with our rich collection of application processors and connectivity solutions that use the Qualcomm AI Engine to deliver efficient ML at the edge, backed by the latest connectivity options like 5G and Wi-Fi 7. Check out some of our QDN sample projects to see our devices working in concert with Azure.
Cross-Platform Support on Windows
Microsoft continues to back cross-platform support, notably Android, thanks to Windows Subsystem for Android (WSA). With WSA, you can use Android Studio or Visual Studio to build and run Android apps natively on supported devices like those powered by Snapdragon (e.g., always-on, always-connected PCs). This opens up new frameworks for developing Android apps, such as .NET Maui, to build those apps in C#.
WSA’s Android emulator provides additional advantages like no longer requiring you to switch from your Windows PC to a phone to run or test Android apps. And you can easily resize the window to see how your apps look in different resolutions and aspect ratios.
Microsoft announced several updates to WSA, including GPU acceleration and UX optimizations like antialiasing and scrolling, to enhance these interactions when running Android apps on Windows.
Microsoft’s vision of the metaverse appears to center around three domains: consumer, enterprise, and industrial. Much of the focus is on productivity with backing from Microsoft Mesh (Microsoft’s collaboration and communications platform) and Azure IoT.
The pandemic is likely a key driver for closer collaboration experiences like those made possible by their metaverse. This observation aligns with those we shared at Snapdragon Tech Summit 2021, namely that AR and metaverse technologies can bring us much closer together than traditional video calls by recreating the feeling of presence and extending the continuity of who users are.
An important element of Microsoft’s metaverse is the Digital Twin. Once the stuff of science fiction, digital twins facilitate visual collaboration on designs and ideas, and enhance remote monitoring and maintenance of physical objects, thanks to tools like Azure Digital Twins Explorer. This of course relies on IoT and edge devices to connect the digital world to the physical, another area where our application processors and connectivity solutions can form the basis for such devices. You can then integrate them with Azure or build native Windows apps for WoS that are designed to tie into Microsoft’s ecosystem of productivity apps.
Microsoft Mesh is currently available in free preview using devices like Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 (powered by Snapdragon). Going forward, users will be able to experience this using both 2D screens and via AR/VR headsets on devices like laptops powered by Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3, smartphones powered by Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Mobile Platform, and VR/AR headsets powered by Snapdragon XR2. Either way, our powerful and efficient SoCs are well positioned to provide these immersive experiences.
Hybrid and Remote Work
Microsoft’s recent online session: Windows Powers the Future of Hybrid Work, expresses how users’ priorities changed when the pandemic hit in March 2020, resulting in new demands for flexible working arrangements. Interestingly, Microsoft’s metaverse vision is tied to its support for remote and hybrid workplaces. Microsoft says that 50% of Gen Z and Millennials envision using metaverse technology at work over the next two years, which corroborates the evolving notion of where the workplace is located.
In the same presentation, Microsoft equates hybrid and remote work with flexibility, and is focused on solutions that allow users to work when they want or need, anytime and anywhere.
This vision requires powerful yet efficient hardware, and Snapdragon compute platforms with hardware-accelerated AI and 5G connectivity are ready to power the always-on, always-connected PC powered by Windows. Our Hexagon processor provides the performance and efficiency required for these experiences without relying on CPU/GPU. This allows for concurrency (e.g., running several AI models and experiences simultaneously), an area where we lead. For example, at MWC 2022, we demonstrated how our AI-powered noise suppression technology effectively isolates your voice to remove background noises and ensure that your voice is delivered clearly during online meetings. As Microsoft says of today’s online meetings, every voice matters, and everyone should be heard. We couldn’t agree more!
Opportunities to Build the Future
One of the big takeaways from this year’s event was the potential to unlock new opportunities that all of these new and evolving technologies bring. There are sure to be all kinds of opportunities for developers, from new use cases to new types of devices, services, and applications. Whether it be digital twin creation, digital asset authoring, or new ways of developing and collaborating, this year’s event showcased the latest foundations of a great build!
Missed the event? Watch the presentations online at https://mybuild.microsoft.com/.
Snapdragon, Qualcomm AI Engine, Qualcomm Hexagon, and Qualcomm Neural Processing SDK are products of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.