Microsoft is starting to test its new "Office Mix" application, designed to turn PowerPoints into interactive presentations and provide users with analytics about those presentations.
The application installs an add-in that provides users with the ability to record audio, video, and handwriting and insert elements like quizzes and interactive learning exercises into that presentation. The initial but not sole focus of the Mix app looks to be the education market, based on information in various Office Mix Knowledge Base entries. (Thanks to "WalkingCat" on Twitter for the links.)
The Office Mix Web preview site offers users with an access code a chance to sign in. Those without a code are redirected to the Microsoft Connect site where they can sign up for access to the preview once it is available.
Office Mix is more than just a PowerPoint add-in. From the Mix Knowledge Base entries:
"Once your presentation is ready just click 'Create MIX.' We work our magic to mix in xml for an interactive document complete with analytics, and place it in the cloud. From there, just share the link, and your students can watch it on just about any device with a web browser. You can then check student progress online and see who watched the presentation, and how they did on your quizzes."
More from the Knowledge Base:
"We designed MIX to be used in a variety of ways. We’ve seen teachers use MIX to help get absent students up to date. If a student misses a lesson you can just have them watch it at home, or wherever in the world they are. It’s also a great way to have students review material or get extra material that doesn’t apply to everyone in the class."
The Mix Website, data analytics, and add-in are all free, but do require Office 2013 Service Pack 1. With an Office 365 subscription, users can view "Mixes" on their Macs and "many more devices."
According to the KnowledgeBase article, Mix "works best with touch screen PCs and Web cams," allowing users to capture video of themselves presenting and writing on the screen like they might a whiteboard. On machines without touch, users won't be able to write on slides.
I'm not 100 percent sure, but my guess is "Mix" might be the name for thewhich Microsoft officials demonstrated at last year's company meeting. Remix is/was supposedly a digital storytelling Metro-Style/Windows Store application.
Another tidbit about Mix: Office Mix seems to be connected to — or possibly the same thing as — a Microsoft Research Project codenamed "Athena." (A link to the UserVoice support forum points to "MSRAthena.") Athena is expected to be among the education-services-focused topics covered at Microsoft Research's Faculty Summit in July 2014.