I attended The Microsoft media event at their head offices on Friday the 24th of April, where I had my first hand experience on their latest devices and innovations.

Recent technology advances are aiming to improve customer’s health, lifestyle and experiences at both work and play.

Microsoft sees the need for increased productivity, accessibility and security innovation in the digital era that is constantly evolving, with the aim to provide more people than ever access to new tools.

Every day advances in technology are helping to improve people’s health, lifestyle, and experiences.

Microsoft has developed an array of hardware and software solutions, that seek to dramatically improve the lives of their customers.

One of my favorite innovations is the Maths Assist programme which helps students solve for X using their computer and for Xbox lovers, Microsoft has launched new controllers for people who are differently abled and enjoy gaming but find more traditional controllers prohibitive.

“We wanted to create more awareness of the advances we have made in computing, gaming and in ergonomic design as well as how they make our customers lives easier. We firmly believe that empowering every individual and organisation on the planet to achieve more is more than just a mission statement; it defines how we design our products and how we approach innovation,” says Vithesh Reddy, Consumer and Device Sales Director at Microsoft South Africa.

We were given a first-hand experience of Microsoft’s latest devices and features, while also being exposed to advances in ergonomics for wellbeing in computing, and new computing capabilities designed to increase productivity and accessability for both work and play.

“Our productivity tools across Office and Windows allow for improved collaboration through file sharing, smarter research, task management, and synchronisation as well as increased comfort thanks to ergonomic design. We have upgraded safety through increased encryption and better levels of security on email and internet browsing. Finally, our inclusive design approach has helped us ensure that our products are more accessible, making gaming, Office and Windows functionality more accessible to many more people around the world,” says Vithesh Reddy.

Improved productivity for Office and Windows:

Some of the key advances in productivity include:
• QuickStarter: A research tool which helps you build PowerPoint presentations in minutes.
• Math Assist: A OneNote feature that allows you to solve complex mathematics equations quickly, and shows you step-by-step instructions that help you learn how – perfect for parents helping their kids with homework.
• Researcher: Helps you find and cite reliable sources for your research paper from within Word in just a few steps.
• Real-Time Co-Authoring: Allows you to collaborate online and in real time on Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents, leading to increased productivity in the workplace.
• OneDrive Sharing: A productivity tool that allows you to store files, share them, give permission to view or edit them and work together on files at the same time.
• Timeline for Windows: Shows a history of activities you’ve performed over the last few weeks and synchronises your activities across your PCs allowing you to easily pick up a task where you left off.

Microsoft has also used the latest in ergonomics to develop the Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop keyboard and mouse to eliminate strain on hands for those working long hours.

Vithesh Reddy highlighted the importance of using the correct hardware to optimise performance.

“Many PCs still use Hard Disk Drive (HDD) storage which hinders performance. Customers who want to optimise the performance of their devices should consider Solid State Drive (SSD) storage, which speeds up performance, boot-ups, battery life, and also has higher longevity.”

Addressing data safety:

The safety of applications and devices is a key focus for Microsoft. OneDrive security has improved functions such as two-factor authentication and advanced virus protection which, when used in conjunction with Office 365 which gives its users 1TB of included storage, means improved security of your data on the cloud.

Improved email safety includes the new do not forward email and protected email encryption functionality. Family protection for Windows limits account access to certain websites and content helping families protect their children from viewing sensitive material and content online and Windows Defender protects users from malware and viruses.

Xbox has also implemented Family Safety which allows parents to filter-out age restricted games and content.

Accessibility for all:

Microsoft’s approach to design centres around being as inclusive as possible with the aim of providing everyone with access to technology.

Solutions such as Narrator, colour filters, Mono Audio options, speech interaction with Windows, and eye tracking make using Windows easier for people faced with various disabilities.

Xbox has also been made more accessible thanks to co-pilot, a solution which allows two controllers to act as one, meaning any two people can control the same character on-screen, as well as the adaptive controller, designed to meet the needs of gamers with limited mobility.

In Office, dictation, which allows you type using your voice on Word, Touch input which allows for touchscreen inputting of information and ReadAloud, a speech to text app, are also helping to create accessibility.

Says Vithesh Reddy: “Microsoft will continue to look for new ways to improve our customer’s lives through innovation. We are determined to continuously develop inclusive technology that protects our customers’ sensitive information and empowers as many people as possible.”