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HoloLens, Age-Guessing Computer Offer Nerdy Fun at Microsoft's Build Developer Conference

While the developer conference was mostly business, there was fun to be had, if you knew where to look.

Ina Fried for Re/code

Microsoft was mostly business at it’s Build developer conference, but there were a few places to have some fun.

The most popular attraction, by far, was Destination: Mars, where attendees could strap on Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented-reality glasses and visit the Red Planet. Since the device is only available to a small number of developers and businesses, it was the broadest audience yet to get to try out the HoloLens.

As part of the experience, which is headed to Kennedy Space Center soon, developers got to walk around different parts of Mars as captured by the Mars Rover, while getting a tour from astronaut Buzz Aldrin and Rover driver Erisa Hines.

Developers (and reporters) could also learn to code for HoloLens, and as part of the “Holographic Academy,” get another chance to try on the goggles. My colleagues from The Verge got an even longer chance to play with the HoloLens, and shared their experiences here.

But while HoloLens offered the most obvious opportunity for nerd fun, I also found enjoyment playing with some of Microsoft’s automated intelligence exhibits.

Ina Fried for Re/code

One showed Microsoft’s ability to spot and categorize different emotions. People launched the demonstration by smiling at the camera. From there, attendees were encouraged to display a range of emotions, and the computer very accurately characterized happy and sad faces, as well as expressions displaying surprise, anger, fear and disgust. It did a credibly good job of spotting each emotion.

A second, similar setup hazarded its guesses on the age and gender of people that stood in front of its large-screen display.

I had particular fun stumping this one, as Microsoft’s engine went back and forth in trying to determine my gender. Fret not, Microsoft computer, it’s complicated.

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