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July, 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.

July, 2010

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Computing Research Association Gathering Informs, Inspires


    In even-numbered years, North America's Computing Research Association (CRA) gathers computer-science department heads, deans, provosts, and major computer-science funding agencies at the Snowbird Resort and Conference Center in the Wasatch Mountains, not far from Salt Lake City. Hot on the heels of Microsoft Research's Faculty Summit, the Snowbird Conference occurred July 18-20. The insight shared during sessions on statistics, trends, and the best ways to communicate computer science is applicable to the field as a whole, as were other ideas addressed in sessions held during the conference, including:

    - A Call to Action: Peter Harsha, who represents CRA in Washington, D.C., led a session providing an inside view of how the legislative process can affect the funding of computer-science research. He also explained the role the Computer Research Advocacy Network plays in ensuring that elected officials receive targeted, timely communications.

    - Understanding the Ranking of Graduate Programs: Charlotte Kuh of the National Research Council gave a progress report on a survey to update the 1995 database of Ph.D. rankings. The session chair, Jim Kurose of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, outlined the impact the CRA had in ensuring that its data included conference papers and citations in the computer-science field. Read the full story.

    - Computer Games: Michael Mateas of the University of California, Santa Cruz made a case for graduate research in game design and development, presenting an array of research areas important to the industry, including artificial intelligence, procedural generation, and interactive narratives. Donald Brinkman of Microsoft Research External Research presented educational game-related activities such as Kodu and the game-themed programming approach, outlining Microsoft's near-term plans to drive next-generation educational games.

    - Social Good: Lakshminarayanan Subramanian of New York University led a discussion on the potential computer-science departments have to promote social advancements through global initiatives. Examples included high-speed, point-to-point, solar-powered Wi-Fi and the use of technology to detect counterfeit currency, prescriptions, and other documents.

    - Basic Computing Knowledge: Andy van Dam from Brown University presented the findings from the CRA Education Committee on trends critical to the future of computer science, including diversity, pipeline issues, and general apathy toward the field of computer science. The report, two years in the making, details best practices to introduce students to computational thinking, to address computer-science curricula, and to identify and develop cognitive, mastery, and research skills.

    - Communicating Computer Science, The Hot Under the Cool: Chaired by Judith Bishop, director of Computer Science within Microsoft Research External Research, this session explored how to communicate innovation in computer science to a world already overwhelmed by technical advancements. Other participants in the session included Shyno Chacko Pandeya from the New Image of Computing Initiative, which uses the Dot Diva brand to attract middle-school girls; Virginia Gold from the Association for Computing Machinery, who provided insight into the marketing aspects of the first Computer Science Education Week campaign; and Jon Kleinberg of Cornell University, who introduced his new book Networks, Crowds and Markets, co-written with Cornell colleague David Easley, which is aimed at large classes from all fields of study.

    Microsoft Research is a full member of the CRA and the conference. Rico Malvar, managing director of Microsoft Research Redmond, provided a new insight into the work of the association in promoting the interests of the members of the computing research community.

    The conference was a tremendous opportunity to help support advancement of the CRA strategy and agenda, as well as network with computer-science thought leaders in North America.

    Daron Green, general manager, External Research, a division of Microsoft Research

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Microsoft Research unveils next generation of WorldWide Telescope at 11th Annual Faculty Summit


    Great discoveries are often the result of collaboration, and for three days this week, during the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit 2010, more than 350 attendees representing various universities, industries, and governmental agencies are gathering to combine forces. Participants will be looking to foster collaboration that advances research, inspires technological innovation, enhances the educational experience and cultivates the next generation of thought leaders.

    Held at Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Wash. and hosted by Microsoft External Research, a division of Microsoft Research, the summit will feature the introduction of new technologies focused on space exploration as well as the announcement of the winners of the 2010 Microsoft Research Faculty Fellowship grants, which provide $1.4 million in funding each year to support professors who are exploring high-impact research that has the potential to help solve some of today's most challenging problems.

    The theme of this year's summit, Embracing Complexity, aptly describes the work underlying the new Terapixel technology in the Microsoft Research WorldWide Telescope. Terapixel is the largest, seamless, spherical map of the sky ever created. It will provide scientists with the ability to navigate through space dynamically to make their own discoveries. Created from data provided by the Digitized Sky Survey-a collection of thousands of images taken over a period of 50 years by two ground-based survey telescopes--Terapixel offers a complete, panoramic rendering of the night sky that, if displayed at full size, would require 50,000 high-definition televisions to view. Terapixel draws on the power of the Trident workflow workbench and the DryadLINQ interface for .NET to combine thousands of images and systematically remove differences in exposure, brightness, and color saturation.


    The clearly tiled view of a portion of the night sky (left) is rendered seamless by the Terapixel smoothing process (right). (Photo courtesy of the DSS Consortium)

    Another of the summit's intriguing presentations showcases how Microsoft Research and NASA will enable people to use the WorldWide Telescope to explore Mars virtually via a 3-D rendering of the surface of the planet and take interactive tours with noted NASA scientists James Garvin and Carol Stoker. This capability is the result of the Space Act Agreement signed by Microsoft and NASA in 2009 to inspire the next generation of astronomers to continue to pursue scientific discovery.


    A stunning new image of Mars now available in the WorldWide Telescope. (Photo courtesy of Microsoft|NASA)

    All of us at Microsoft Research are pleased to have the opportunity to welcome some of the world's most renowned thought leaders, working together to envision the advances of tomorrow.

    Please visit our Faculty Summit homepage the next few days, where we will bring you more information about WorldWide Telescope, the 2010 Faculty Fellows, and ongoing event news and coverage.

    Tony Hey, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft External Research, a division of Microsoft Research

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