Microsoft experiments with making Windows Live Tiles interactive

Microsoft experiments with making Windows Live Tiles interactive

Summary: Microsoft researchers are looking at ways to allow Windows 8, Windows Phone and Xbox users able to interact directly with Live Tiles.


Microsoft researchers in Asia are experimenting with the usefulness and feasibility of making Windows' Live Tiles interactive.


A newly published video clip from Microsoft Research's TechFest 2014 event in February 2014, Human-Computer Interaction Group researcher Jiawei Gu shows off the Interactive Live Tiles research project.

Update: Looks like Microsoft Research has removed the three videos that showed off the Interactive Tiles Project demo. Boo!

Update 2: Thanks to quick thinking/grabbing by @h0x0d, all three videos are still viewable. Here's the main one.

In one of the video clips showing off the research work (thanks @h0x0d, a k a the "WalkingCat" for the links), Gu demonstrates how users potentially could interact in new ways with the Live Tiles that are core to the Windows 8.X, Windows Phone and Xbox user interfaces.

Gu shows off the ability to drill down inside of a Live Tile -- rather than having to open full-screen a Metro-Style app -- to get music information and e-mails. He also shows off a new Interactive Desktop Tile that would allow users to open Desktop Office apps and, seemingly, other non-Microsoft-developed destkop/Win32 apps. Being able to interact with Desktop apps in this way could help Windows 8 users who find moving between the Desktop and Metro-Style environments less than smooth and intuitive.

On the Microsoft Research site, the "Interactive Tile" project is described this way:

"This project features an Interactive-Tile UI system that enables users to access and manipulate Live Tiles in an interactive way with touch gestures. Interactive Tile’s UI is responsive and flexible to an app’s content and function. Users can provide quick input to the Interactive Tile on the Start screen. With a perception of Start as an entrance page, Interactive Tiles were introduced to empower the start screen with an intermediate access level to applications."

Gu describes the underlying technology as enabling "parallel tasking." In the video, he shows the Interactive Tiles working on a traditional PC with a monitor, allowing users to run the Interactive Tile in a sidebar alongside other apps, as well as an Interactive Tile on a Windows Phone.

Like all Microsoft Research projects, there is no guarantee if or when Interactive Live Tiles will become commercialized and part of any/all flavor of Windows.

Topics: Windows 8, Emerging Tech, Microsoft, Mobility, Windows Phone


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Yes!!;;

    • Widgets!, exactly...

      Here's a hint Microsoft that your engineers may have missed over the last decade, Widgets!
      • Yes.

        Considering Widgets started with Apple over 12 years ago you would think the Microsoft copy machine would have "re-innovated" the damn things earlier!
        • Vista had "Gadgets" shortly after Mac OS X Tiger intro'd "Widgets"...

          ..though I have to say Apple (and Yahoo/Konfabulator before them) implemented it in a better way than Microsoft ever seemed to be able to...
          • And of course...

            ...a crude beginning of widgets came with IE4 back in the Windows 98 days, so once again Windows was really ahead of its time.
          • and of course

            an even earlier version of Widgets was on the GEOS platform for C64 systems back in 1989! Yet another company Microsoft copied from.
            NoMore MicrosoftEver
          • then again...

            You mean the GEOS platform that was a copy of MacOS for Apple Lisa and Macintosh?
          • Does it make a difference?

            Gosh, what a difference does it make who came first and who copied this or that feature? I mean, it's always been like that, someone came up with an idea, others copied it and maybe improved it along the way, then others came who did it again, and so on and on and on. What's wrong about it? I rather like this kind of development than having a set of unique features that nobody is allowed to re-use as a foundation for own developments and improvements.
          • which Apple copied from XEROX PARC

            Only XEROX can claim originality with respect to GUIs.

            However, as with most software innovations, first doesn't mean best.
          • except that few used Active Desktop

            Same problem that Windows 8.x faces: if most people use up most or all of the screen with foreground program windows most of the time, Active Desktop and/or Live Tiles serve little or no purpose.

            Live Tiles make most sense on phones which most people check frequently, less so on tablets, and least so on PCs.
          • Live tiles on tablets do make sense

            because they are just a button press away or a little finger edge swipe away.
            It would be great to be able to have a Live Tile for music which has buttons just like Android music widgets. Or even something as handy as a refresh button on a live tile for stock quotes without having to click and open the app.
            Tablets are just big phones (or phones are just small tablets) after all.
          • Exactly. Windows has widgets waaay beore OS X. Though these are not widgets

            Windows 95 (with Internet Explorer 4) introduced Active Desktop - the ability to have html fragments running on the desktop.


            Interactive Live Tiles seem to still respect the distinguishing "tile" aspect: Rather than expanding over or pushing adjacent widgets they use the tile layout algorithm.

            Yes - they are closely related to widgets. Interactive live tiles could be seen as a refinement of widgets. History will tell whether this is what widgets need to become useful on the desktop/tablets. So far they have mostly been gimmicks/novelties.
        • you are brain dead or just short memory

          Tablets way way before apple, back and foreword nav buttons, Minimizing to document windows into app icon, remote desktop connection, Control Panel - This is just to mention a few..

          And how much they stole from blackberry and google? Now they begin to copy metro in phones with larger info icons.

          So yes, you are brain that and a blind fanboy
      • Windows Mobile had widgets

        They had widgets before Apple knew what an iphone was and way before Android was conceived.
        It kinda depended on what you used as a Home Screen or Launcher in Windows Mobile but it could have 2 way widgets.
    • We need this now!

      We better have this by Windows 9 at the latest. It's not like the competition is sitting on their hands while Microsoft tries to innovate.
      • Tries...

        hmmm....I don't even think they are trying. Just lackadaisically clicking the copy button once in a while.
        • sure...

          Because everybody has Live Tiles. Windows Phone is just a copy of iOS and Android (Google incidentally never, ever copies)...
    • Jump lists on the desktop should be updated the same way...

      We need interactive & Metro-fied jump lists when Modern apps are pinned to the Task Bar. They could work similar to the above.
    • Nod.. was my first impression, too...

      Konfabulator had widgets on the Mac OS X desktop, then Apple buried them behind a keystroke in Mac OS X Tiger... then Microsoft put them in a "Sidebar".. then they put them back onto the desktop...

      And now we're coming back full circle again... who says nobody likes to re-invent the wheel!
    • Hmmm...

      Live tile is more like a widget though quite limited one. These are actually views to a full app running in the background. Of course a widget can open a full version of the app, but thats not what we are seeing here.