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Microsoft and Warner Bros. Team Up to Debut Movie Archive Technique Involving Glass

Nov 6, 2019 by CharismaticMannequin
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Credit: Engadget

When you think of backing up your data, what comes to mind first? CDs? USB drives? A whole rack of hard-drives? When it comes to archiving movies and digital video, Microsoft and Warner Bros. have a whacky invention – glass-based storage.

“In a technological advancement normally reserved for science fiction, Microsoft has teamed up with Warner Bros. to successfully store and retrieve an entire copy of the 1976 classic Superman: The Movie on a coaster-sized piece of glass using the Redmond company's Project Silica storage solution. 

Demonstrated as a proof of concept, Project Silica uses "ultrafast laser optics and artificial intelligence to store data in quartz glass," as explained at Microsoft's Ignite 2019 keynote.” (TechRadar)

From the company’s blog, they explain how a laser encodes the data in glass by “creating layers of three-dimensional nanoscale gratings and deformations at various depths and angles.” A slice of glass just 2mm is able to hold up to 100 layers of these ‘gratings’; retrieving the information is relatively simple, as a polarized light is shone through the glass, which is then decoded and analysed by machine learning algorithms.

I don’t know about you but I’m not sure I trust myself to keep my data safe using glass. I’d be the first person to break something important, and lose valuable data. I’ll stick to my traditional storage for the time being. That said, the hard silica glass has survived boiling, scratches, scouring, demagnetization, microwaves, baking, and more with no data loss.

Warner Bros. was interested in the technology due to their hunt for a storage technology that can stand the test of time – floods, solar flares, and centuries are all possible consequences facing data and its preservation.

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Credit: Hexus

The new glass-based storage, if successful, will replace the film-canister equivalent for Warner Bros., using far less storage space, and representing a viable alternative to other solutions. It’s still in the proof-of-concept stage, but Microsoft Azure’s CTO Mark Russinovich is confident it’ll find its place soon:

“I’m not saying all of the questions have been fully answered, but it looks like we’re now in a phase where we’re working on refinement and experimentation, rather asking the question ‘can we do it?’” 

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