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Oh what a day! I’m at the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond WA this week. This is a big event for Microsoft Research with over 400 faculty from around the world hear for two days of presentations, demos, and lot and lots of conversations. We started off with a keynote by Eric Horvitz, Distinguished Scientist and Deputy Managing Director, Microsoft Research who talked about machine learning and inference and basically making “smart” software. Really interesting stuff. The undemand video for his talk and many others should be available at the conference website today.

The first concurrent session I went to was called Social Media: Analysis and Application. It was sort of funny that all of the tweets using the faculty summit hash tag during this session came FROM this session. The rest of the day tweets seemed a lot more evenly balanced across sessions. There is a lot of interesting research going on in this area but I think the main thing I took away from these talks was that the separation of virtual and physical worlds is really an artificial one.  I’ve always known that online activities had “real world” consequences but these takes were eye opening to me. Also there is now a book by Jamie Pennebaker that I’m probably going to have to read called The Secret Life of Pronouns.

Lunch was al about the conversations. One of the smart things they decided to do a couple of years ago was to not have talks during lunch so people could process, talk to other people, and basically network.

After lunch I attended a session on NUI Research – NUI is Natural User Interface. What were they talking about?

  • Recent work toward scaling multitouch at whole room scales
  • Research on using the human body as an antenna, exemplifying how touchless gesture interfaces could become ubiquitous
  • A specific application of touchless gesture interfaces in surgical settings
  • A pen-based prototype diagramming tool that uses constraint inference and a novel beautification algorithm to enable the drawing of precise geometric diagrams

Amazing stuff. We are, I think, at the beginning of many new ways to interact with computers.

The next session I attended was on End-User Programming for Mobile Devices which focused on some of the research and application of TouchDevelop which lets people program for their Windows Phones ON their Windows Phones. TouchDevelop is being used in some introductory computer science courses with great results. Check out the TouchDevelop teaching resources for more information

OK I missed the closing keynote. IT wasn’t intentional but I got caught up in some great conversations. Some of them will result in future blog posts. I’m learning a lot here!

I did make the dinner cruise though for still more conversations. Again you’ll be reading about some of them in future posts. Today some of the summit will be live streamed at the Faculty Summit web site. Also on demand videos will be available as soon as they are processed. SO be sure to visit the Virtual Faculty Summit site to see what is going on.