Microsoft Garage, the company’s first in India has been announced at its Hyderabad campus, with Bangalore to follow soon. Microsoft Garage essentially provides a platform to employees who want to explore ideas, build prototypes or experiment with existing products. Though the Garage programme has been there in India since 2014, the company today inaugurated a dedicated space for the same. The Microsoft Garage facility is spread across 8,000 sq ft, equipped with modern facilities such as 3D printers, laser cutters, PCB milling machine, and more to support teams that are working on these passion projects within the company.
“Microsoft Garage is all about giving a platform to employees to share their passion projects.You may be working on a business to business project in your day job, but you always had a passion for mobile payments or how peer-to-peer communications could improve. The Garage is your platform to explore that idea,” said Jeff Ramos, General Manager, Microsoft Garage. “Here in India, we already know that people have a real passion for farming, agriculture as well as healthcare. So we know these are the areas where we will do a lot of exploration,” Ramos added.
The first Microsoft Garage was set up in the company’s Redmond headquarters in 2009. Apart from Redmond and India, the project is also functional in the company’s offices in Beijing, Israel, Silicon Valley, New England and Vancouver. Notably, India is Microsoft’s second largest work location after Redmond, which employees close to 45,000 people.
Microsoft Garage has been divided into three lab sections – Hub, Makerspace and Advanced Makerspace. The Advanced Makerspace has advanced machinery such as laser printers that cannot be used without the supervision of a lab assistant. Microsoft Garage does not have specific closing or opening timings and employees can work on their passion projects as and when they are free.
Microsoft Garage ideas have to go through the process of proof of concept, prototyping, accelerating, etc before they can finally make it to the business stage. At the business stage, these products or services are released for the public. For example, Kaizala, a mobile app that makes it easy to connect with large groups at work, was an idea generated at Garage India. Another interesting product from Microsoft India Garage is SMS organiser – a beta version for which has already been rolled out – which seamlessly organises personal messages, transactions and promotional texts in separate tabs.
“We do a lot of technical talk to excite people to work in new areas and then create working groups which work on actual prototyping in the labs at Garage. We make available different kind of equipment to people to be able to work with cutting-edge technology. The Garage not only gives you access to equipment, but it also gives you access to a bigger community of people whom you can leverage and get mentorship from,”said Reena Dayal, Director, Microsoft Garage – India.
“One of the chapters we are focussing on is Mixed Reality (MR). We’ve already started engaging with the local community. Other areas that we are actively looking at in India include Artificial Intelligence, drones, future realities, Quantum computing, Internet of Things, Technology and Art, Robotics and Ecosystem interface. This is a transient list, which depends on the business focus as well as technology interest areas,” Dayal pointed out.
The best of Garage ideas make it to the company’s Hackathon annual event, which gives employees a platform to take their ideas a step closer to the business stage. Since launch of Garage, a total of 27 projects and services across have made it to public release thanks to Hackathon.
Disclaimer: The author was in Hyderabad to attend the opening of Microsoft Garage at the invite of Microsoft India.