This Is Microsoft’s Holodeck
Did you notice this room in the back of the previous image? Well, this is what Ramos called Microsoft’s Holodeck. Or, at least, the room that will soon host Microsoft’s Holodeck. This is where Microsoft employees will be able to experiment with HoloLens, Windows Mixed Reality devices, and competitive products like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. The first project: A sort of virtual vacation where Microsoft takes a 360-degree scan of a city and then lets you explore it in XR. Ramos said the company plans to demo this software during next year’s Build conference.
An iPhone From A Vending Machine? Yep
Even the Garage’s vending machines are cool. Here we have the Lend-O-Matic, which dispenses gadgets with the swipe of those nigh ubiquitous employee badges. Ramos said this machine was installed because Microsoft employees often need access to a specific piece of hardware when they’re tinkering with something in the Garage. Now, instead of having to hunt down that device or request one from the finance department, they can just use the Lend-O-Matic. Ramos demonstrated the machine’s ease of use by having an iPhone (yes, an iPhone, not a Windows Phone) dispensed right in front of the group of touring journalists.
Check Out Our Wall Of Awards
Within the Garage is Microsoft’s wall of awards. It’s hard to see here--turns out getting a picture of etched text on highly polished glass isn’t all that easy--but the types of awards changed over the years. Microsoft is now more focused on recognizing employees’ achievements no matter what they did--whether it was improving Windows or helping defend customer privacy--and the prizes will continue to change as time goes on. This wall is basically the physical representation of Microsoft’s shift from corporate fuddy-duddy to hip tech company.
The Garage also hosts a Maker Lab where employees have access to 3D printers, laser cutters, and other expensive machinery. Most of it’s open to anyone, but some parts do require safety training. Unfortunately our picture-taking abilities were limited in here by Microsoft’s request not to take pictures of its employees. (Something something “they’d have to sign a release.”) But we don’t think this picture of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and the accompanying warning not to misuse Microsoft’s resources violates the spirit of that rule, right?
We Opened Up Our Eyes And Saw The...
We saw these signs around all of Microsoft’s campus. This one’s trying to educate Microsoft employees on disabilities; others talked about inclusiveness versus exclusiveness, the importance of listening to people, and a bunch of stuff in languages we can’t read. (Don’t bother visiting the URL; you need to sign on to Microsoft’s corporate network to access it. We tried.)
After the Garage came lunch. Well, not for us, although Microsoft did offer a bunch of food samples. Instead, we were shown how a company manages to feed upwards of 40,000 people twice a day, every day, while also committing to producing as little waste as possible. Our first stop was Cafe 83, where we learned that Microsoft imports spices from India, grinds them in-house for its cafes, and then distributes them to other local restaurants. The request not to take pictures of Microsoft employees made getting a shot of the cafeteria itself hard, but we hope you can tell from the swanky branding that Microsoft isn’t running some schoolhouse cafeteria.
Does “Hydroponic” Mean “Really Cool?”
But that didn’t stop us from sharing these hydroponic towers with you. This is where Microsoft grows various types of lettuce on-campus. The company produces 15,000lbs of lettuce and a ton of micro-grains each year with these towers. They use 90% less water than other farming methods, and they don’t have any soil inside; the nutrients are picked up directly by the roots.
For what it can’t grow, Microsoft partners up with local farmers. We were told that these farmers previously tilled 40% back of their produce back into the ground because they didn’t meet supermarket beauty standards. Nobody wants ugly veggies on their shelves even though they taste the same and, in all likelihood, are going to be chopped up anyway. Microsoft buys all that unloved greenery and uses it in its kitchens.
The Campus’ Only Public Building Had A Holo Secret
We ended our tour with Building 92, which is the only part of the campus open to the public. Coincidentally, its basement is also where a team of employees secretly developed the HoloLens, which means Microsoft basically hid its breakthrough headset right under everyone’s feet. There’s a museum, store, and security office here; there are also offices where new employees are onboarded. We were told something like 100 employees are onboarded each week, although only 10% of applicants are hired.
Please Don’t Touch Master Chief
Master Chief, from the Halo franchise, greeted us on our way into Building 92. We cropped it out of the photo, but a sign very politely asked people not to touch the obviously expensive models. We wonder how many people had to touch them before Microsoft decided to put up that sign. (A lot. Master Chief looks like a badass.)
Microsoft: Still Selling Software In Boxes
Employees have their own special section of Building 92’s store. We could see boxes of software (in 2017!) which explains why nobody’s allowed to take any pictures beyond that point. (Gotta keep those license keys safe, after all.) The rest of the store had kitschy items like branded shirts, backpacks, and other accessories; toys; and other things you’d expect to find in a gift shop.