April 13, 2010

Yusuf Mehdi's Microsoft Majority Report


By Wendy McHale

Yusuf Mehdi's keynote speech recently at the IAB MIXX event demonstrated why the realm of digital technology is still in its infancy. As Chief Advertising Officer his presentation was amazing. It was like going to the movies, only you were in it. Mr. Mehdi and company created a platform that was designed to evoke mind-blowing images. It did.

The reason was clear. Yusuf informed us that, "The human eye processes visual content 400 times faster than text."

About 20 minutes into his speech the fun began. He led off by mentioning how Tom Cruise's office technology in the film, Minority Report was remarkably similar to the examples he was about to present. "Minority" is one of my favorite films. He had me at "Hello!"


Frankly, if 2009 has been the "Year of the Digital Conference" the IAB MIXX event should receive the "Best of Show" of Advertising Week's events. One reason was that they put "show in front of tell." Going into the room there was no question that the expectations the audience had of Microsoft were high. Redmond had something to prove, and they proved it.

Speaking in an informal conversational manner, Mr. Mehdi took the stage knowing all the while that he would be demonstrating some of the most mind-boggling computer experiences you normally only see in futuristic films.


To say it was cool is an understatement. As an entrepreneur I was enthralled and could not help but imagine myself having the chance to experience the technology first hand. Once the lights were lowered, he called attention to a giant Truman Show-like make-believe window to the outside world. Kind of like a screen saver on steroids.


However, as fast as he was taking us through the future, so did the images in my mind. From there we cut to 2001 and HAL. When I saw the wall video with the real life human avatar talking, it felt a little creepy. Apparently I wasn't the only one. The person I sat next to tweeted, "Big Brother".

That said, the examples of kids and families playing in the living room on the couch made me quite comfy. The guys riding skateboards and/or snowboards and/or fighting Godzilla were much more invigorating than HAL's refusal in 2001 to open-up the pod-bay doors. My thoughts went to the film, "Twilight", not because of the exact comparisons, but by the thrill of the feeling of movement that Twilight's Bella felt as Edward, her vampire beau runs up mile high-like evergreens overlooking Pacific Northwest's most spectacular views.


I realized the world wasn't going to come to an end like in 2001. I could see how playing along with friends and family could be not only a physical exercise experience, but also one where hours could pass before you realized that you've been playing the game until midnight... on a school night.


Later on Yusuf did a demo of how he would use all the office tech wizardry in action. He asked us to imagine that he was an architect designing a building. Meetings began almost immediately with ghost-like architect counterparts, who had a "Scotty, beam me up" feeling. Quite cool. I felt a vicarious thrill like being a fly on the wall watching their meeting take place. Then I had to wonder if the woman in the virtual office could enter Yusuf's room later in the day without "knock on the door." That made me wonder if the office even had a door! If it did, there's no doubt there'd be a line outside it with people waiting to use more than the copier.


Then there was the virtual image consultant who helped the young girl use the screen to select an outfit. Of course I thought of my mother when I was that age. It made me wish I had this Microsoft App when I was in high school. It made me also wonder what kind of "image consultant" I am going to be someday with my own daughter when she becomes a teenager!

Finally, with his building project plans set, architect Yusuf Mehdi was able to check out how the new structure he was designing would look, up on a three dimensional screen wall which moved based on Mehdi's vantage point walking around the room. It reminded me of the heart-pounding closing scenes of Jurassic Park.


Microsoft has clearly set the stage to leave the dinosaurs of office technology behind. Based on this and the other presentations and events they sponsored, it is clear that they spared no expense.


Look for more of Wendy's experiences from her colossal Media MIXX Mashup experience over the next several days. The Editors

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