If Microsoft designers have groupies, then they look like the chipper young guys who pop out from around corners at Studio B to greet Stevie Bathiche. Tagging behind Bathiche, distinguished scientist with Microsoft’s Applied Sciences Group — an interdisciplinary team working on the next phase of interactive technologies — I feel like the rookie reporter in a geeky version of “Almost Famous.”
But if he’s famous, he doesn’t know it, or at least act like it. Bathiche is disarmingly humble and refreshingly honest. Tall and lanky, with long, rock star-quality black hair, he’s even a little goofy. Bonding over an appreciation for Italian coffee and discussing the nature of invention in the atrium outside his lab, I wonder aloud whether, had I been a resident of ancient Mesopotamia, I would have thought up the wheel. It seems so obvious, the ubiquitous wheel. But what kinds of obvious inventions are right in front of me right now that I’m not smart enough to think of?
Bathiche gives his macchiato a stir and looks me square in the eye. “I would not have thought of the wheel,” he says gravely.
“I am sure you would have thought of the wheel,” I insist.
I am sure the guy who came up with a cockroach-powered vehicle when he was 20 and holds 60 patents would have thought of the wheel.
“I would have not thought of the wheel.”
This is the kid who built a Van de Graaff generator in elementary school with his mother’s salad bowl domes.
“She was mad, because I put two holes in them and put them together” — but, he remembers with a laugh, “I put it together, and it ran and it worked. I was shocking myself!”