In Redmond, Washington, Microsoft houses the most technologically advanced hardware labs on the planet in their own Area 51, dubiously titled Building 87. Deep within the building, Microsoft works on perfecting the technology of tomorrow; Surface, Cortana, HoloLens, and other secret projects. Building 87 is thought to have the industrial sewing machines for the development of smart fabric technology, a light box big enough for a human to fit in, and the world’s quietest room.
Building 87 hosts Microsoft’s three labs of the future: Edison Lab (The Lab of the Future), Human Factors Group (The Department of Human Data), and Microsoft’s Audio Lab (The World’s Quietest Room). The Edison Lab is responsible for creating such Microsoft products as Surface, Surface Touch Cover, and the Microsoft Touch Mouse. The Edison Lab is working on the path of virtual teleportation, and how they approach their work, as seen in the video below.
Another lab within Building 87, the Human Factors Group (The Department of Human Data), directly affected the design of items like the Microsoft Band, Surface, HoloLens, and Xbox. The Human Factors Group is home to a human-sized light box where they conduct tests on how humans perceive and react to stimuli. The Human Factors Group tries to find ways to make Microsoft wearable products easy to use, ergonomically comfortable; feel natural to wear on your head, attach to your wrist, or hold in your hands. They are responsible for designing the HoloLens, the Microsoft Band, and the Xbox One controller.
The last lab in Building 87, Microsoft’s Audio Lab is where engineers work on products like Surface microphone, Surface speakers, and Cortana. Building 87 has three anechoic sound chambers, the largest of which is completely separate form the foundation of Building 87, and rests atop of special springs to absorb sound. The Audio Lab is also looking to drastically improve Cortana‘s speech recognition; they set up a mannequin that asks Cortana questions quickly, while throwing in other background noises, to see if they can distract Cortana.
In Building 87, it is apparent that Microsoft is constantly working on their products in ways that I don’t think anyone takes into consideration. I never thought about some of the things that Microsoft engineers are testing and experimenting with and all their work looks to be amazing. I highly recommend that you take the virtual tour and decide for yourself.
Take your own virtual tour of Microsoft’s Building 87.