This was a week for jocks and geeks to unite, as they convened at Hashtag Sports, an innovation conference in New York City exploring the convergence of media, sponsorship, content, advertising and culture.
Microsoft, an official partner of the event, hosted a media event where tech trailblazers from companies including Arccos Caddie showed how they’re elevating our favorite games. Sal Syed, CEO and co-founder of Arccos, demonstrated how cloud-based golf technology is helping weekend golfers get more birdies. FoxTales CEO Josh Hubberman highlighted his company’s custom baseball card technology and other conduits to foster new relationships between teams and fans. Staff from the Seattle Reign FC professional women’s soccer club talked about the team’s embrace of technology in an effort to boost performance and score more goals by more efficiently measuring and managing the cumulative toll of the games on players’ bodies. And NASCAR officials showed off a new race management app that helps them see individual cars better within the fluid motion of the field, in a sport where every second counts.
This week’s focus on fun technology wasn’t limited to New York – L.A. got in on the action, too. AEG’s L.A. LIVE entertainment and sports district, which 20 million people pass through each year, got a new addition with the revamped Microsoft Lounge that uses tech to blend Hollywood’s past and present. Visitors not only are surrounded by the plush décor of old Hollywood speakeasies with antique furniture and brick walls, they’ll also experience artist installations that include a massive Kinect-powered wall of wooden tiles that moves based on guests’ motions, a photo booth with social sharing features and a mosaic mural of images continually compiled from the latest visits.
The week wasn’t all fun and games, though – The Markle Foundation and Microsoft Philanthropies signed a significant partnership to connect workers with new opportunities in the digital economy. Microsoft said it will invest more than $25 million over three years to expand Markle’s successful Skillful initiative, first across Colorado and then to other states.
The move comes as technological advancements are putting the workforce through “an upheaval unlike anything we’ve seen since coal and steam propelled machines to the forefront of industry in the 19th Century,” Microsoft President Brad Smith and Markle President and CEO Zoë Baird wrote in a post on LinkedIn. “This is one of the single biggest philanthropic investments Microsoft Philanthropies has made, reflecting the importance of the work involved.”
Microsoft also awarded Affordable Access Initiative grants to 10 companies in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the U.S., including Picosoft Nepal, which is working to bring low-cost internet to schools in the country’s heavily rural areas.
Amid that workplace upheaval, Microsoft is taking steps to help employees better manage their work-life balance. The company is now offering workers around the world up to four weeks of fully paid leave if they need to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition. And Lakshmi Sasidharan, a search account manager for Microsoft in Singapore, talks about a “no-barriers career” alongside an ideal professional landscape that allows her to celebrate her role as a mother.
The week also brought the first podcast of .future, a new series about making the future happen, hosted by science and technology reporter Cristina Quinn in conjunction with Microsoft Story Labs and Gimlet Creative. The first episode explores what it takes to secure the information we store in the cloud and protect against personal and global attacks on the digital battlefield.
In apps this week, making your own music has never been simpler with the software behind Music Maker Plus, which is celebrating its launch in the Windows Store with a 50 percent off sale. For a limited time, you can also buy any book in the new Books store for Windows 10 and get $5 off the next one – but hurry, because the offer expires at the end of Friday, June 30.
Whether you’re enjoying music, reading a good book, making the world a better place or using new tech to help you play or watch sports, we hope you have a terrific weekend, and we’ll see you back here next week!