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A preliminary conceptual diagram showing how the experiences could work. (Via U.S. Diplomacy Center and Microsoft.)
A preliminary conceptual diagram showing how the experiences could work. (Via U.S. Diplomacy Center and Microsoft.)

Visitors to the upcoming U.S. Diplomacy Center will use Microsoft technologies including the large-screen Surface Hub computer, Bing Maps and Skype Translator in interactive experiences designed to simulate the challenges encountered by U.S. diplomats around the world.

Mark Penn
Mark Penn

The Redmond company announced this morning that it will donate $1 million worth of technology and related services to the new U.S. Diplomacy Center, a museum under construction in Washington, D.C., that will tell the story of the nation’s diplomats, including its past Secretaries of State.

The announcement was notable in part because of who made it: Mark Penn, Microsoft’s executive vice president and chief strategy officer, who was chief strategist for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 Presidential campaign, before she went on to become Secretary of State. Penn largely plays a behind-the-scenes role and doesn’t often speak publicly on behalf of the company.

“Microsoft’s contribution, we hope, will make it a truly next-generation museum, one that will deliver museum visitors to the front lines of American diplomacy, to experience first-hand the issues our diplomats experience every day,” Penn said, announcing the plan on a conference call with Ambassador Elizabeth Frawley Bagley, Special Advisor for the Secretary’s Initiatives at the U.S. State Department.

The company will power “real-life, interactive scenarios, pulled straight from today’s headlines,” Penn said. For example, visitors will be able to play the part of an American diplomat in situations such as peace talks and civil unrest, attempting to defuse difficult situations.

Of course, the experiences will also serve as a demonstration of Microsoft’s technologies, such as the ability to use Skype Translator to communicate in real-time with someone speaking in another language.

The museum, near the National Mall, is slated to open in 2016.

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