I’m just on the train back to London after the ResearchNext event at Microsoft Research in Cambridge and I wanted to share some initial thoughts.

The event brought together around 75 technology leaders from some of our largest clients. We wanted to reveal Microsoft’s world-leading research and open a discussion about how it can help them.

As Rob Fraser, CTO of Cloud Services, explained in his introduction it wasn’t about selling but looking far into the future. Actually much of the day had the same mind-expanding feel as a good episode of Horizon or (remember this?) Tomorrow’s World.

Some of the highlights for me were:

  • The keynote speech by the Laboratory Director, Andrew Blake. He talked about the way in which 5 or even 10-year pure research projects turned out to have unplanned practical applications, such as the application of a functional programming language to smart electricity metering.
     
  • John Bronskill talked about the role of probability in analysing large data sets and gave some great demos, such as an interactive movie recommendation tool and the way that Xbox Live matches players of similar abilities to create a competitive but not impossible challenge for players of every ability level.
  • There was an amazing demo by Kenji Takeda that pulled in data from The World Banks library of 1.5m data sets into a single line of code to produce graphs. It looked like an elegant and simple interface into a ‘big data’ library.
     
  • Shahram Izadi showed us videos of some of the almost-magical natural user interfaces that blur the real world and the digital one in something that looks like an early prototype of Star Trek’s holodeck. 

There were individual demo stations showing all kinds of new technology and research projects as well as breakout sessions to discuss specific topics. I went to one about ‘software for programming cells’ – actual living cells! But that’s a whole article in its own right. 

We’ll share more detailed reports and links soon. If you have any questions about this event or any of the topics discussed contact us at: MS_Horizons@microsoft.com. Your email will come direct to me and a couple of colleagues and we’d love to hear from you.

by Tim Cozze-Young
Audience Marketing Manager, Microsoft Enterprise Team