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April, 2010

Microsoft Research Connections Blog

The Microsoft Research Connections blog shares stories of collaborations with computer scientists at academic and scientific institutions to advance technical innovations in computing, as well as related events, scholarships, and fellowships.

April, 2010

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    A Smart Duo: Fetal Monitors and Mobile Technology

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    At the heart of the thousands of debates and discussions regarding healthcare is the age-old and industry-agnostic issue of supply and demand. On one side of the equation there are hospitals, healthcare practitioners, equipment, research and many other factors. On the other side there are billions of people living throughout the world, each of whom have a unique set of conditions and needs—many without access to healthcare providers.

     

    The ability to leverage the power of mobile technology in order to develop a point-of-care diagnostic tool is what inspired Microsoft Research to partner with researchers at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia to develop affordable, portable fetal monitors. With financial, software and hardware support from Microsoft External Research, the Australian team developed a software application that can be downloaded at no cost to any Windows Mobile smartphone that, when connected to a low-cost fetal monitor, allows expectant mothers to track fetal heart rate and other activities within the womb. That data, in turn, can be transmitted – in much the same way an image would be sent via a text message – to obstetricians, midwives and other healthcare professionals near and far. The technology behind the monitors is Doppler radar to track the baby’s movements.

     

    The monitors can also be used to track and relay critical information during premature births, a special concern for the researchers in Australia, where indigenous women in remote and rural areas experience premature births, fetal deaths and other complications twice as often as other Australian women. Martin Masek, one of the project’s principals, discussed its implications in this video, shot last year at the mHealth Summit.

     

    Of the many compelling aspects of this project, its global applicability is of particular interest. With nearly 90 percent of the world’s population now living in an area that can send and receive cell phone signals, the technology solution is truly scalable: The combination of smartphones and medical technology has the potential to be deployed almost anywhere.  That, in addition to the technology’s cost of less than $100 US, could have enormous implications not only for developing nations, but for areas of countries including the U.S. where accessibility to quality healthcare remains an issue due to geographic or socioeconomic factors.

     

    Kristin Tolle, director, Natural User Interfaces for Healthcare, Microsoft External Research

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    F# Officially Joins Visual Studio

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    It’s official: With today’s launch, F# makes its formal debut as a part of Microsoft Visual Studio 2010. Although F# has proved its ability to make a significant positive impact on the lives of professional programmers and others, the inclusion of version 2.0 of F# in Microsoft’s development tool firmly establishes its status as a major .NET programming language. Already popular, F# extends the .NET platform by offering a productive language for developers working in technical, algorithmic, parallel, and data-rich areas. F# 2.0 is the first supported version of the language and includes new, improved features.

     

    F# provides type-safe, succinct, efficient and expressive functional programming on the .NET platform. It is a simple and pragmatic language, and has particular strengths in data-oriented programming, parallel I/O programming, parallel CPU programming, scripting and algorithmic development. It offers access to a huge .NET library and tools base and comes with a strong set of Visual Studio development tools. This combination has been so successful that the language is now a first class language in Visual Studio 2010, and can also be used on Mac, Linux and other platforms. F# originates from Microsoft Research, Cambridge, and the MSR F# team, led by Don Syme, which continues to partner with the Microsoft Developer Division.

     

    Microsoft Research has served as the incubation center for the development of F#, which began seven years ago. From the beginning, Microsoft has worked closely with members of the global research community to ensure optimal development of the language. One collaborator is R. Nigel Horspool, professor of computer science at the University of Victoria, whose courses expose students to different programming paradigms. He lauds the ability of F# and Visual Studio to simplify and expedite the programming process in various ways, including helping the programmer remember the methods attached to different data types and how to use those methods. F# programs, he says, tend to be much shorter and can be used by programmers more quickly. And the fewer lines of code required, of course, the higher the productivity.

     

    In his classroom, Horspool isn’t the only one impressed with F#. His top students love it, he reports, and are amazed at what their programs can accomplish with only a small amount of code.

     

    As a productive language for typed functional and object-oriented programming on the .NET platform, F# is being adopted across a number of industry verticals, where it is particularly useful for companies that need to conduct algorithmic analysis of large quantities of business information. Known for its ability to make it easier for analysts to experiment with different data and derive analysis of a higher quality, F# has been selected as the language of choice by major banks in the United Kingdom and, as a result, is influencing the curricula for business and finance students at top colleges in London.

     

    Judith Bishop, director, Computer Science, Microsoft External Research

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Celebrating Earth Day 2010

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    This week marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, which began as a way to not only honor the planet but to remind us to treat the Earth respectfully. Four decades later, thanks to the vision and dedication of those who established the very first Earth Day, it is now common to consider and question the impact we make on the Earth’s environment in our daily lives.

     

    At Microsoft Research, we strive to honor the principles of Earth Day every day. We are guided by our mission to collaborate with the global research community through research, education and innovation with the ultimate goal of improving lives for all of us on Earth. As scientists, having a deep understanding of the planet and its intricacies is critical to our life’s work. But as citizens, pursuing innovative ways to harness the power of technology and science in support of a healthy, thriving environment is beyond critical: it is essential.

     

    One way in which we appreciate the planet is to capture its essence in digital imagery for the purposes of both pleasure and research. Microsoft Research has enhanced the ability to easily display extremely large images using HD View. Developed by the Interactive Visual Media Group at Microsoft Research, HD View draws on technological advances to enable in-full, 360-degree fields of view. It also harnesses the power of current graphics hardware for smooth panning and zooming of images. Available as an Active X Web browser component, users of Microsoft Windows can use HD View to create content that can be easily shared and distributed via the Internet.

     

    In that spirit, in addition to providing tools that enhance our appreciation for the environment, in honor of Earth Day Microsoft is introducing a new online destination where people can learn how each and every one of us can be more mindful of sustainability throughout each and every day.

     

    To provide year-round inspiration and information on the collaborative discovery and scientific research underway, Microsoft Research invites you to visit two earth-friendly sites, Earth, Energy, and Environment and Microsoft Research and the Environment. Both sites offer easy and convenient access to news, feature stories and in-depth information about projects being undertaken throughout the global research community.

     

    Also drawing on the power of the Internet to facilitate change, Microsoft’s environmental site helps make every day an earth day.  In addition to a number of topical feature stories being published this week, the site also includes:

     

    · A series of video vignettes featuring discussions with  Microsoft executives about how their daily roles contribute to the company’s overall sustainability mission

    · Videos on Green IT at Microsoft

    · Daily tips on green topics

    · Personalized recommendations via Microsoft Hohm, a free, Web-based beta application designed to help people identify ways they can save energy and money

    · Other timely news and feature stories

     

    Finally, today is a perfect day to celebrate the advances we’ve made in treating the environment respectfully. Today is also the perfect day to revisit and renew our vow to make meaningful contributions to a sustainable future. In honor of the time-tested wisdom that you get out of it only what you put into it, on behalf of all of us at Microsoft Research and members of the Earth, Energy, and Environment team, happy Earth Day 2010, and many, many more.

     

    Dan Fay, director, Earth, Energy, and Environment, Microsoft Research

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