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April 8, 2013

Microsoft’s Team of Mad Scientists

Our very own Stevie Bathiche was recently featured in an article with Fast Company this week. The article served as inspiration for us to share a little bit more about Stevie’s team here at Microsoft, the Applied Sciences group, and the role they played in helping create Surface.

Stevie Bathiche, who is a distinguished scientist, leads the Applied Sciences group. The Applied Sciences group, or “technology asylum”, is made up of about 20 scientists who together form a research team built up with several broad disciplines. Within this group of “mad scientists”, there are physicists, optical, software, computer vision, and electrical engineering researchers who all work together to develop and implement new ideas that truly break new ground in product design.


These are custom displays that the Applied Sciences built that are able to see you and your hands for gestures and more realistic video conferencing.


The same video conferencing display from the back.


This is SpaceTop, an augmented reality desktop that uses a transparent display to create a virtual 3D environment behind the display where you can interact with digital objects as if they were in your hands.

The Applied Sciences group played a significant role in making Surface what it is today.

One problem Stevie, in partnership with the Surface Engineering Team, was asked to solve was the distracting reflection a user sees when interacting with their screen. When you hold up a piece of glass you can see your reflection because the glass is denser than air. Solving this issue meant having the fewest layers of glass possible (the team knew that more layers meant more reflections). The solution they developed to eliminate these reflections was ultimately to fuse all the optical layers together (touch sensor, protective glass, and other layers) so that the layers became the same density and matched each other’s index of refraction as close as possible. The end result was reduced glare, reflections, and even making the display stronger and more resilient.

Stevie and his team also helped build one of the thinnest keyboards in the world, our Touch Covers. Teaming up with the Touch Cover development engineers, they began with a goal of building a keyboard that was just 4.5mm thick. When the team was through, 4.5mm was just a memory and the 7 layers that make up Touch Cover today have a combined thickness of only 3mm. But there’s more to the Touch Cover.

The keyboard senses a number of unique signals and gestures from the user. Using those signals, the Touch Cover is capable of telling the difference between when the user is trying to rest their hands or finding the home position vs. the gesture of typing. Touch Cover is a smart keyboard. With all its pressure sensitive electronics wrapped in fabric, the Touch Cover is the thinnest keyboard on the market and a fantastic accessory for Surface.

Their work is hard…so they like to drink a lot of coffee.

The Applied Sciences group comes to work to give serendipity its best chance and to create novel ways for people to interact with their devices. We’re proud of the work they’ve done to date and can’t wait to see what the future brings.