Have you seen Microsoft’s Super Bowl ad?


I live in India and have not been to the Super Bowl yet. But I know it is one of America’s biggest sporting events, viewed by millions of Americans. Naturally, this event also offers the highest brand visibility, on par with being on the national networks.

Techies might recall the Apple Macintosh “1984” Super Bowl ad, aimed at taking on IBM in the PC war.

Watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UZV7PDt8Lw

That ad created a lot of interest for the Macintosh computer, in an era where IBM PCs were the gold standard.

Well, Microsoft (surprise! surprise!) might have managed to create a similar impact in its Super Bowl ad last Sunday. But this time they were not talking only about cutting edge technology — it was about technology that impacts lives. The ad is getting a lot of raves and a few rants) on Twitter.

Gleason1Getting to the point, the latest Microsoft ad features a man in a wheelchair, who uses a tablet to talk to his infant son. That man is Steve Gleason, who was once a National Football League player. And if you Google him, you’ll see that his ‘blocking the punt’ technique eventually led to a touchdown for his team, the New Orleans Saints, in a September 2006 game. This was a much needed touchdown for the ‘Saints’ in New Orleans, after almost two years.

Gleason suffers from a disorder called ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), a neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and in the spinal chord. And this severely affects his speech.

Gleason2The Microsoft ad shows Gleason using a Microsoft Surface tablet with an eye tracking app that helps him talk to his family.

The app tracks Gleason’s eye movements as he focuses on certain letters on the tablet’s keypad. And as words are formed, the app vocalizes the words using text to speech conversion. Gleason can also tweet and surf the web with this solution.

You can watch the Microsoft ad here: Steve Gleason: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JObFlEvc-Eg

Noted scientist Stephen Hawkings suffers from ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). I reckon the technology that Microsoft is offering is the similar to what Hawkings uses in his computerized communication system. The notable difference is that Microsoft is bringing the technology to the masses through a tablet and app. Unlike Hawking’s customized computer, the Microsoft Surface tablet and app will be affordable, and hence available to more people who suffer from ALS or speech disorders.

Now that’s a new focus area for Microsoft — it needs to make technology solutions that impact lives.

Hope the incoming CEO and Chairman will take note.

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