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July 13, 2010 / Joe Osborne

Microsoft Student Insider Feature: Arturo Toledo + Two More Chances for Freebies

Thanks for clicking to another edition of Geekadelphia’s Microsoft Student Insider Feature Series where I, this year’s Microsoft Expression Studio Insider, give you guys and gals a glimpse into the lives of select members of the Expression Studio team. This week we have the infinitely interesting (who else can create an adorable elvish lizard ?) Arturo Toledo, a Product Manager on the UX Platform and Tools Team. Let’s get into a bit more of what his job entails as well as some of the interesting Silverlight features he showed while at Redmond last month.

Arturo, originally from Mexico with a background in architecture, used to work with the Expression Team but has recently joined a Silverlight team of 15 folks. Arturo’s team is tasked with focusing on designers, or those concerned with the User Experience (UX), and letting them know why they should care about Silverlight. More on why he feels designers should be looking to Silverlight right now behind the cut.

According the Arturo, Silverlight is a platform that enables both the design and development of digital marketing and web applications. However, with a entire portion of the Expression Studio dedicated to Silverlight, this handy tool might be weighing in a tad heavier on the design side. “[Expression] Blend is essentially a tool for designing,” Arturo explains.

Arturo’s job is to raise awareness about the capabilities of Silverlight in the design community, he says. During our chat, Arturo decided to show me a site that many of you may be familiar with: the official site of Harmonix’s The BeatlesRock Band. The site was developed by AKQA, an ideas agency that focuses on innovative web design, and was regarded by the Favourite Website Awards as “Website of the Day” when the title first launched. Here’s the best part (you knew it was coming): it was all designed using Silverlight.

Arturo then decided to show me what is probably my favorite feature of Silverlight thus far: Smooth Streaming. This tool allows for the creation of Silverlight based video players that calculate the average bandwidth of the user in order to provide video that is buffer free. In other words, you can forget having to pause a video clip on Youtube for about a minute to guarantee that the player won’t catch up with the buffering and freeze up. Better yet, it plays in HD automatically depending on the strength of your connection and whether your computer is HD compatible. However, if your bandwidth dips or your connection is simply bad at the moment (for all of us wireless users out there), Smooth Streaming will adapt to prevent the frame rate from dipping by reducing the resolution.

Finally, Arturo introduced me to a feature that is a strong contender for being my favorite, Photosynth, a 3D photo mapping web app developed using Silverlight. It looks a lot like Google Street View, but its implications and applications are entirely different. What the app does is examine photo submissions of a particular location or focal point and calculate their similarity to fill in the gaps. The app defaults to a three dimensional slide show, but users can assume control at any time, clicking and dragging their way through a pseudo-3D environment as if they were there. Photosynth is backed by Seadragon, the same Microsoft Live Labs technology behind Deep Zoom and allows for the quick navigation of photos at any resolution. What’s up with all of these new web apps making me want to use my new Nikon Cool Pix S220 more?

And that’s it for this week’s Microsoft Student Insider Feature Series, tune in next week for more interesting information surrounding the people and products of Microsoft. As for this week’s contest, I still have a good amount of Expression Studio 3 trial discs to give away, so leave a comment (nothing fancy this time — just say ‘hey’) by Wednesday, March 10th for a chance to win one of these nifty discs!

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