B.S., Electrical Engineering, 1997
Induction year: 2022
Steven Bathiche came to Virginia Tech with an intense curiosity about bio-mimicking robotics, leading to several memorable research projects during his studies.
One involved building a swarm of ant-like robots that followed the scent of pheromones. Another was the Mothmobile, which was intended to aid in the development of a wheelchair that could be controlled more easily by people with handicaps. This project received the Top Invention of the Year Award from Discover magazine.
“If we can develop technology that clears away hurdles, so people can accomplish their aims, we free up their time for what’s most important. The irony is that technology often adds complexity to our lives. It should bring simplicity,” Bathiche said. “My guiding principle is to remove barriers, reduce friction, and enable people to do more.”
Currently, Bathiche serves as a technical fellow and vice president at Microsoft, where he leads Microsoft’s Applied Sciences Group, an interdisciplinary team of scientists and product engineers responsible for innovations across Windows, Surface, HoloLens, and other products. He has worked for at Microsoft for over 20 years shipping and inventing new devices, interfaces, and experiences. Inventions include the original Surface table, as well as contributing to the current line of tablets, laptops, and entirely new form factors. Throughout his career, Bathiche has obtained more than 110 patents.
He credits a bulletin board in Whittemore Hall for helping get him to where he is today. “It was a pivotal moment; my life took quite a different turn. I saw a flyer for a scholarship funded by Microsoft — that was the beginning of it all,” Bathiche said.
Born in Lebanon and lived in Queens, Sweden, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Texas, and Virginia.
Degrees from other institutions:
M.S.E., Bioengineering, University of Washington, 1999
- Technical Fellow and Vice President, Microsoft, 2017–present
- Distinguished Scientist, Microsoft, 2013–2017
- Director of Research, 1999–2013
Awards and honors:
- Holds more than 110 patents.
- Fellow, Society for Information Display (SID) for the invention of the first mixed reality display.
- Outstanding Engineer Award, Innovator, IEEE
- Top Invention of the Year Award (Mothmobile), Discover magazine
What's one of your favorite memories from Virginia Tech?
- Riding my bike across the quad during the frozen winter months.
- My late afternoon meetings with Dr. Dessy.
- The solar car project (and almost crashing it) and the robotic arm.
- Stopping to look at a bulletin board in Whittemore Hall. It was a pivotal moment; my life took quite a different turn. I saw a flyer for a scholarship funded by Microsoft—that was the beginning of it all. Had I not walked by there that day, or if that flyer wasn’t up, I wouldn’t have known about it, wouldn’t have applied, and wouldn’t have gotten that scholarship.
What’s your current role all about?
I lead Microsoft’s Applied Sciences Group, an interdisciplinary team of scientists and product engineers responsible for innovations across Windows, Surface, HoloLens, and other products. We work on everything from artificial intelligence and machine learning at the edge, to pen, touch, and display technologies, combined with new device form factors and experiences.
What’s your career been focused on?
My expertise lies in multidisciplinary approaches to inventing technologies and experiences for Windows and devices. I’ve been shipping and inventing new Microsoft devices, interfaces, and experiences since 1999, from the original Surface table to our present line of tablets, laptops, and new form factors such as Surface Duo and Surface Hub.
What is your guiding purpose?
I want to evolve the computer by inventing new interaction technologies. This includes better ways for devices to capture people’s intent and their physical world; enabling the computer to perceive and understand these inputs at higher levels of abstraction; and new output technologies to convey knowledge, meaning, and experiences back to the user.
What are you currently focused on?
My biggest focus currently is how A.I. is changing how we interact with machines, and how our interactions will become more and more implicit. Together, these advances remove barriers, reduce friction, and enable people to do more.
What is a guiding principle for your work?
Technology doesn’t change people’s fundamental needs; it changes how those needs are met.
The ideas that interest me are ones that have the potential to make our lives more fulfilling. What does that mean? Let’s say a fulfilling life starts with a sense of meaning—with reflecting and discerning your deepest purpose—and then striving toward a dream, having an impact on what’s meaningful to you. And, of course, the simple pleasures like just hanging out with your friends and being happy. But too often, we neglect these basic things. Why? Often, it’s a lot of little things that get in our way—a thousand details that suck up our time and create friction. “Our life is frittered away by detail,” as Thoreau said.
If we can develop technology that clears away hurdles, so people can accomplish their aims, we free up their time for what’s most important. The irony is that technology often adds complexity to our lives. It should bring simplicity. My guiding principle is to remove barriers, reduce friction, and enable people to do more.
What advice would you share with your younger self just starting off in your career?
Strive for the renaissance. Nature does not understand silos, this is a human construct. Study and combine seemingly orthogonal subjects to create a unique set of skills and perspectives. Think and approach problems and subjects with a multi-display view.
Please note: Inductee spotlight is as of their year of their induction.