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What we’ve been up to lately with Microsoft Corporation…

Whether it’s building accessible technology or keynote demo material for Microsoft’s executives at massive global events, it’s fair to say Intergen has been keeping busy with our Microsoft friends in the Northern Hemisphere.

In our most recent SMARTS magazine. I reflected on our most recent work for Microsoft US, specifically with regard to our work in the accessibility space and in creating imaginative and engaging product demo material for high profile Microsoft keynotes.

Accessibility: Bringing technology to the widest possible audience

To me, with equal opportunities engagement in mind, one of the most interesting things I noted throughout the coverage of the aftermath of Christchurch’s earthquake was that each of the televised daily briefings included a live sign language translation.

We’re lucky in what we do here at Intergen. We get to build stuff that helps people in their daily lives, and a big part of this involves making technology accessible to everyone. We’ve long been about embracing accessibility in the things we build. And to that end it’s refreshing to see – and be a part of – new solutions that offer far greater accessibility features without scrimping on functionality.

For the longest time, particularly in government circles, with eGovt Web Standards guidelines dictating a suite of restrictions in the name of accessibility, people shied away from rich technologies, choosing to opt instead for pared back technology. By working closely with Microsoft on accessibility features that are destined to become part and parcel of our most-used daily productivity tools, we’ve been able to prove that it’s not a case of either/or. You really can have the best of both worlds.

Here’s what we’ve been working on with Microsoft, with accessibility in mind.


DAISY add-in

Save as Daisy for Office 2010 helps you convert Word Open XML files to the Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) format. DAISY powers digital talking books and compatible software and Braille readers for people with print disabilities or limited vision.

With Save as DAISY for Office 2010, you can transform Word 2003, 2007 and 2010 Open XML documents into accessible multimedia formats for people who can’t read print. These formats include synchronised text and .MP3 audio that can be played directly within Windows 7 or DAISY XML, which works with compatible software readers and talking book/Braille devices.





The first of our forays into accessible software, ButtercupReader is a Silverlight application that allows visually impaired people to read DAISY talking books and better access the information contained within Word documents. No special hardware required, and no cost to the user. The only thing needed is Microsoft Silverlight, which is free and takes just a few minutes to download. There are a number of readers on the market, but none so accessible or easy to obtain. All you need to do is open your browser.

You can try ButtercupReader yourself at: http://www.buttercupreader.net



STAMP (the Subtitling Add-In for Microsoft PowerPoint) lets you add closed captions to the video and audio files in your PowerPoint presentations, so no one misses a word of what you have to say. With STAMP you can also subtitle videos or audio files in another language. People with hearing disabilities can also use STAMP to caption their own videos for those who don’t understand sign language, opening up whole new communication possibilities.

You can download the betas for DAISY and STAMP directly from SourceForge at: www.sourceforge.net/projects/stamp-addin/ and www.sourceforge.net/projects/openxml-daisy/ 

We'd love to get your feedback on these projects. Chris.auld@intergen.co.nz (DAISY/Buttercup) and Jim.hunter@intergen.co.nz (STAMP)


Building engaging demos

We created demos for the latest and future Microsoft technologies - CRM 2011 and AX 2012.

We’ve all sat through yawn-worthy demonstrations, where the thing most successfully demonstrated is the appeal of sleep rather than the merits of the thing actually being showcased.

Successful demonstrations are all about engagement, immediacy and believability. They’re ultimately an exercise in storytelling. The story needs to be compelling. It needs to connect with its viewers and to offer real world scenarios that resonate and ring true.

We’re often called on by Microsoft Corp to build their keynote demos. And as with all the ‘Chris special’ projects I bring through the door, these involve short timelines and hard deadlines, adrenalised late nights and tireless long hours, with brainstorms and caffeinated drinks aplenty. We live for this stuff!

With each keynote demo we form a team and we work together to create a narrative that will really exemplify and bring to life the key technical innovations being demonstrated. What better way to make an impression on your audience than to captivate them with a scenario they can relate to?

So what significant demos have we worked on so far this year?


Microsoft Convergence 2011 Keynote Demo, Atlanta

Presented by Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO and Kirill Tatarinov, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Business Solutions, building this keynote called on the skills of many of our Dynamics experts right across the organisation. Working in utmost secrecy, even within Intergen’s ‘four walls’, together we created demos for the latest Microsoft Dynamics technologies – CRM 2011, AX 2011 and NAV 2009 R2 – in in readiness for the big event.

The keynote was presented to more than 9,300 people – not the kind of audience you’d typically encounter closer to home down here in Australasia! It went off without a hitch and I’m told – which is the best measure of success of all – that the audience was well and truly fired up by what they saw. Our GM of Sales, Bruce Smith, tells me people were almost “up out of their seats” the enthusiasm was so palpable.

Steve and Kirill stressed that the Dynamics vision is about simplicity, value and agility. It’s about maximising the productivity of your people by taking advantage of communications and collaboration technologies. It’s about systems that are vibrant, connected and interactive.

This was our brief, our story to tell, and these qualities were borne out in the demo materials we created. Real, engaging examples of simplicity, value and agility at work.



Microsoft’s Virtual Launch of CRM 2011

In February, CRM 2011 was officially released into the world via a virtual launch, and we were engaged to create the demo to showcase CRM 2011 in action. Our accomplished team of demo-makers got together to create a business scenario that would really capture CRM 2011’s full potential and get the world enthused about it. And thus Contoso Property Management was born. It’s a portal powered by Azure, findable by property seekers via Microsoft Tag or Microsoft adCenter (Bing Ads). It connects to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online to provide real-time information about Contoso’s property listings. Property locations can be seen through a Microsoft Silverlight Bing Maps control, with handy information overlaid, like commuting data and nearby attractions. Once a person enters their details on the portal, a new lead is generated in Microsoft CRM.

And then there’s powerful dashboarding, embedded Bing search, Twitter widgets and Wikipedia links. And any emails sent through the system make use of an Office 365 account, with inter-company communication taken care of by Lync Online. All the tools the business needs can be sourced online – no need for IT infrastructure, just a laptop, internet access and Microsoft Office.

How’s that for integrated, intuitive computing at the cutting edge? This was a truly multinational distributed team with many members contributing from their summer holiday locations such as mid-winter Japan.


Posted by: Chris Auld, Chief Technology Officer, Executive Director | 23 May 2011

Tags: ButtercupReader, Microsoft, Office add-in, Steve Ballmer keynote

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