TechFest Pumps Up Microsoft Research, HomePipe Lands $1.1M, A New Fund for Science Education, & More NW Tech Tidbits

3/8/11Follow @curtwoodward

Microsoft Research is having its annual TechFest get-together across the lake, including some pretty cool-looking demonstrations and discussion of what Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) gets for its $9 billion in annual R&D spending. Of course, one of the biggest storylines out of the research shop lately is the popularity of the Kinect motion-sensor for more than just Xbox 360 games.

The Seattle Times’ Sharon Chan—one of the few reporters allowed to cover the Fest this year—reports that senior vice president Rick Rashid says “Kinect is already a multibillion-dollar business.” I guess I’d like to see the income statement on that one. There’s more on the Microsoft Research site.

A few other items to note in the Seattle-area tech scene:

—Seattle-based HomePipe Networks announced $1.1 million in financing led by Mark DiSalle of Scout Analytics. The other investors weren’t named. HomePipe makes networking software that enables users to access content on their home computer anywhere using their mobile phone. The app is available free or for $24 per year at a premium level.

—A new nonprofit aimed at boosting science, technology, engineering, and math education in Washington surfaced this week by passing out $2.4 million in grants to people working in those arenas around the state. Washington STEM said it’s already raised $20 million with a goal of collecting $100 million over 10 years. Big names from the Seattle area are among the contributors, including Microsoft, Boeing (NYSE: BA), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and McKinstry.

—Seattle-based Ookla is showing off a revamped Speedtest site, blending some social and game-type functions with the existing technology for checking how speedy your high-speed Internet really is. The new features include something called Speed Wave, which lets several people sign into a group for longer-range connection analyses and win little badges and other social network-enabled trinkets for participating. These guys made bigger news recently with their comparison test of iPhone speeds on AT&T vs. Verizon.

—Nominations are open for the second year of Pivotal Leaders, a network of community-nominated entrepreneurs and executives who will be voted the most promising candidates to lead new companies in cleantech. The effort is organized by Pivotal Investments, a Portland, OR-based early stage venture fund focused on cleantech and sustainability. Last year’s group of 32 leaders included folks from established companies like McKinstry and Microsoft, but also entrepreneurs.

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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