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April, 2010

Microsoft Research Outreach Blog

The Microsoft Research Outreach 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 Outreach Blog

    Microsoft Web N-gram Services Now in Public Beta Worldwide


    Late last year, Microsoft Research, in partnership with Bing, Microsoft's decision engine, introduced a private beta testing of Microsoft Web N-gram Services. The goal of Microsoft Web N-gram Services is to support research conducted using large data sets, particularly to engage the academic community in the area of data-driven research. This week, during the World Wide Web Conference (WWW2010), Microsoft Research and Bing will announce expanded access of the Microsoft Web N-gram Services beta to include professors and students at accredited colleges and universities worldwide.

    The technologies included in Microsoft Web N-gram Services have been noted for their ability to assist in writing applications specific to search, translation, and speech processing. One of the immediate scenarios made possible by the technology is the ability to understand misspelled words and ungrammatical sentences by using the power of the sheer volume of language data, for any natural language that has lots of data published on the web. From a development perspective, this reduces the need for experts to develop grammars for all languages; users who conduct searches or network on the Internet will be enabled to share information in free form with stronger understanding and clarity. This is made possible by using predictions to contextualize the initial words in the query.

    As the technology and corresponding development efforts advance, Microsoft Web N-gram Services are expected to provide an accurate, consistent user experience, such as helping people learn another language or search for information with queries that are spoken rather than typed.

    Microsoft Web N-gram Services will be demonstrated in the Microsoft booth during WWW2010.

    Call for Papers and Proposals

    The evolution of Microsoft Web N-gram Services is the result of ongoing collaboration. If you're passionate about advancing data-driven research, here are two upcoming opportunities to get involved:

    • The National Science Foundation has issued a call for proposals regarding Computing in the Cloud. Microsoft Web N-gram Services is part of theoffering made available.
    • Paper submissions have been requested by the Programme Committee of the Microsoft Web N-gram Workshop, to be held during the 33rd annual ACM SIGIR conference. The workshop, set for July 23, 2010, in Geneva, Switzerland, will bring together a group of leaders in information retrieval and language modeling to discuss and debate the challenges in their fields and the ways in which language-modeling approaches might help address them. Submissions are due June 11, and authors will be notified June 28.

    For those of you attending WWW2010, I look forward to meeting you. And for those of you planning to participate in the upcoming calls for papers and proposals, I'm eager to work with you.

    Evelyne Viegas, senior research program manager, Microsoft Research

  • Microsoft Research Outreach Blog

    F# Officially Joins Visual Studio


    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 Outreach Blog

    Celebrating Earth Day 2010



    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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