Microsoft gets into sci-fi publishing with research-inspired short stories

The free “Future Visions” anthology imagines the implications of quantum computing, machine learning, and more.

Microsoft is taking a novel approach to marketing its research projects with a series of free sci-fi short stories.

The “Future Visions” anthology, available as a free ebook, includes stories from eight prominent science fiction authors, along with a short graphic novel and original illustrations. Microsoft Research served as the inspiration, and as a resource as the authors wrote their stories.

The end result is a series of works that bear signs of Microsoftian influence. One story by Seanan McGuire, for instance, tells of a lifelike avatar that removes all conversational barriers for her deaf user, acting as a “highly advanced version of the old translation software that had been rolled out in the late 2010s.”

While the stories are decidedly PG, they aren’t entirely unquestioning of technology. In Greg Bear’s tale of quantum computing, a highly-advanced supercomputer appears to cause parallel universes to be inadvertently smashed together.

For a free anthology, it’s a pretty hefty read, with the rough equivalent of at least a couple hundred printed pages. The ebook is available for Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and Kobo. Microsoft also says it’ll do a “very limited run” of hardcover print books, but has no plans to sell them.

Why this matters: Microsoft Research is notorious for showing off wild ideas that may never become commercial products, in an attempt to predict the next 10 years of computing. This project goes a step further, dreaming up the longer-term implications of Microsoft’s more ambitious efforts. If you can bear the subtle advertorial imprint, it could make for some decent reading.

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Jared Newman

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