After a day spent traveling across the beautiful US of A, I landed in the home of Mount Rainer, great coffee, and tech giants for my first day at Microsoft’s 2019 Build Conference!

On this the second day of a heavily developer-focused conference, the schedule was less about big keynotes and more about getting deeper into break-out sessions, networking, learning and visiting the incredible Hub showcasing the best of what Microsoft and their partners/sponsors have to offer. Brett and I took the opportunity to dive into incredible conversations with executives and technologists from around Microsoft to learn more about their AI strategy and how their customers and partners are leveraging Microsoft and Azure on their journey to becoming more data driven.

We are going to dive into a number of the conversations we had and preview some of what will show up as Big Data Beard podcasts, but it cannot be understated how clearly we heard Microsoft’s core themes for this conference; empower users with great tools, especially developers!

In our first conversation of the day, we met with Eric Boyd, CVP of the AI Platform at Microsoft.  You might recognize Eric as one of the card-counting kids from MIT that were the inspiration for the movie 21 (which we learned was a totally fictitious recounting of their actual activities…Hollywood).  You’ll want to listen to the our podcast conversation when it posts in a few weeks as Eric is crazy smart and has an incredible vision for Microsoft’s AI future and how Microsoft’s research and investments in AI are making it real for organizations of all shapes and sizes.  Eric shared how so much of what you’re seeing published around Azure Cognitive Services and Azure Machine Learning are based on Microsoft’s more than 25 years of using AI internally.  He also showed some real excitement on the ways he sees AI empowering even more productivity in everyone’s workday.

Out next conversation was with Mark Hammond, GM of Business AI at Microsoft and Dave Carmona, GM for Microsoft AI.  Mark joined Microsoft as part of the Bonsai acquisition where he was their CEO, now continuing his work on Autonomous Systems development and the emerging discipline of machine teaching.  The concept behind machine teaching is quite interesting as it provides a real way to marry subject matter human intelligence with machine learning for even more pervasive and useful AI.  The conversation continued with Dave on adoption and applications of AI in Microsoft customers and humanistic challenges we face as a community to produce explainable, interpretable AI.  This will be another great Big Data Beard podcast episode to check out in the weeks ahead.

Our conversation with Dave and Mark was a perfect segue to an exclusive presentation to the influencers and press from one of Microsoft’s experts on Ethics in AI and GM over AI Programs, Tim O’Brien.  This thoughtful talk covered how Microsoft is and has been thinking about the impacts of their technologies in the deployment of AI on humanity and the set of principles they use corporately to guide their thinking and development.  Tim acknowledged that all technology exists in cultural and sociological and that AI, specifically, must consider human dignity.  Honestly this was one of the most engaging and thought-provoking talks I have attended at any conference in a while.  You can learn more about how Microsoft considers AI ethics and human impacts by checking out their free eBook called The Future Computed.


We rounded out our day here at Build by walking around the Hub and talking with talented Microsoft technologists.  We learned how Microsoft’s autonomous systems is driving search and rescue robot snakes of the future.  We talked about how Microsoft’s IoT and AI capabilities are being used to improve food production around the world so we feed our growing population with less.  Then we were absolutely blown away to learn about the amazing programs being driven by Microsoft to enable developers of the future with their student education programs…seriously cool to see 50+ young people learning how to craft our technology future!


But to make it even more real, we shifted our focus to talk with customers about how they are partnering with Microsoft for real results powered by emerging technologies.  We learned how Kroger is using computer vision at the edge for real time inventory monitoring, how BMW is driving more personal in-car experiences though improved chat-bots and AI-assistants, how Starbucks is using IoT and AI to make coffee more magical and how Microsoft partnered with JP Morgan Chase to build an enterprise class blockchain service delivering trust in an AI-powered world.


Each of these great conversations from our time on the floor of the Hub was captured on video and will be finding their way to the Big Data Beard YouTube channel and our Twitter stream in the near future, so be sure to go subscribe and follow to learn more!

Tomorrow we are excited to dive deeper into how Microsoft is using AI and emerging technologies to improve the lives of the more than 1 billion people around the world living with disabilities.  And maybe we will get into some more cool tech…but come on, tech for good is pure awesome and you know it!

Your bearded friend,