Der deutsche Education Blog

June, 2011

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.

June, 2011

  • Microsoft Research Outreach Blog

    Treasured Chinese Painting Comes to Life Through Technology


    Explore how a treasured Chinese painting comes to life through technology

    As Chinese citizens celebrate Chinese Cultural Heritage Day, an annual event that takes place on the second Saturday in June, thousands will likely take a virtual walk along a river and a stroll through time, as they digitally explore one of their country’s most famous paintings. Courtesy of a collaborative effort among Microsoft Research Asia, the Beijing Palace Museum, and Peking University, visitors to the museum can experience a detailed, interactive digital representation of Along the River during the Qing-Ming Festival, one of China’s most treasured scroll paintings.

    The centuries-old, original ink-on-silk painting is only rarely displayed publicly; most of the time it’s safely stored for preservation. A scroll that measures more than 5 meters long and approximately 25 centimeters high when completely unfurled, it depicts a variety of panoramas of daily life in the Northern Song Dynasty (960 to 1127): from farmers in their fields, to boatmen and shopkeepers plying their trades, to government officials collecting taxes. Unlike traditional Western paintings, which have a single focus, Along the River during the Qing-Ming Festival employs the “moving focus” technique of Chinese scroll painting, which presents multiple focal points as the viewer works his or her way down the scroll.

    The three-dimensional (3-D) digital representation of the painting allows viewers to pan, zoom, and pause as they explore the richly detailed artwork by using a multi-touch screen. As viewers navigate the digital painting, the software uses their actions to calculate their viewpoint. Enhancing the experience, stereophonic audio has been added, with hundreds of voices creating dialogues that track to the actions in the painting. The scripts were created by experts from the Beijing Palace Museum, and the dialogue uses a dialect of Mandarin that reflects the speech of the Northern Song Dynasty. The audio also includes ambient sounds of nature and city life, linked to the corresponding place in the painting.

    This tour-de-force of software development and 3-D modeling was the work of Ying-Qing Xu, a lead researcher with Microsoft Research Asia in Beijing, who developed the detailed, interactive, and multi-layered digital rendition of the painting by using annotated gigapixel images and HD View on a Microsoft Silverlight platform. This work is part of Microsoft Research’s eHeritage project, which facilitates collaborative initiatives between Microsoft Research and academia that use technology to preserve and display the cultural heritage of the Asia-Pacific region.

    The digital exhibition is open daily to the public for free, allowing visitors to experience a period of China in a way that can help them better understand ancient Chinese culture and heritage. “This is having a profound effect on museums globally and putting Beijing firmly on the map of cutting-edge development,” said Chui Hu, former director of information center at the Palace Museum in Beijing.

    —Xin Ma, University Relations Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections Asia


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    Women in Computing Workshop Explores Gender Diversity Issues


    The Women in Computing workshop took place at the recent 2011 Latin American Faculty Summit. Amidst Faculty Summit topics such as open data, the role of basic research, and cluster and cloud computing, the Women in Computing workshop explored the underrepresentation of women in technology in Latin America. The participants examined various ideas for fostering discussion about gender imbalance within their communities.

    Workshop attendees had the opportunity to benefit from the experience and resources of the U.S. National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), which develops research-based materials to raise awareness and implement practices and programs that increase women’s involvement in computing. Resources that were available to attendees include talking points to present computer-science careers to families and teachers; data sheets that easily summarize the status of women in the field; kits that can serve a variety of purposes, such as talking to high-school girls about careers in technology; and descriptions of curriculum and teaching techniques that attract female students.

    2011 Women in Computing Workshop participants

    The meeting participants came away brimming with ideas for addressing the gender issue. Here’s a sample of their observations.

    From Juan Lalinde, Universidad EAFIT – Abierta al Mundo: 

    “A simple analysis of these facts shows that promoting the enrollment of women in computing programs is not only possible but a good way to provide the qualified professionals the industry needs. The conversation is not about how to balance the proportion of men and women but how to encourage women to enroll in these programs. I believe we have to identify and then discard the social and cultural factors that discourage women from pursuing a degree in computing. The question is not how to motivate them but how not to discourage them.

    “In the future, I think it would be nice to invite women who have significant achievements in academia or industry, to share their views and experiences. As mentioned above, I believe the challenge is how to remove social and cultural factors that discourage women from pursuing a degree on computing, and sometimes they are difficult to identify. Learning from the experience of somebody who has overcome these factors can help us in that process.”

    From Professor Alfred Sanchez, Universidad de las Américas Puebla:

    “The workshop initiative is very pertinent, as evidenced by the excellent turnout and the diversity of participants. It provided a good opportunity to learn about the situation of women's enrollment in engineering programs throughout Latin America, as well as about perspectives from other regions. In particular, it seems the experience of NCWIT can serve as a model for developing strategies and addressing related issues. Maybe we could think of a similar association at the Latin American level.”

     From Flavio Soares Correa da Silva, University of São Paulo:

     “During the past four Latin American Faculty Summits, Drs. Jane Prey and Juliana Salles have organized Women in Computing workshops, which have been devoted to gender issues in IT-related higher education and professional environments. These workshops have been attended by representatives from most countries in Latin America. The discussions have progressed from raising awareness of the importance of gender balance in those environments; to data collection and organization in order to properly found arguments and points to be made about the issue; to the design of concrete actions to be taken to move from our present status—in which women are underrepresented in IT—to a more balanced scenario, which shall be more rewarding to society and economies as a whole. It is all too natural to expect (and hope) that in future workshops the discussion will be about the results of the initiatives which are now being designed.”

     That is our hope, too.

     —Juliana Salles, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections
    —Jane Prey, Senior Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections

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    Cast Your Spell on Spelling


    Speller ChallengeAs some of you may recall, in December 2010, Microsoft Research and Bing jointly announced the Speller Challenge—the first ever Microsoft Research-Bing contest—which enticed participants to grapple with the issue of spelling correction of web search queries. Participants vied to build a speller that would propose the most plausible spelling alternatives for each search query. As a follow-up, we now invite the community to submit papers to the upcoming Spelling Alteration for Web Search Workshop, which will take place on July 19, 2011, at the Microsoft Bing Headquarters in Bellevue, Washington.

    The Spelling Alteration for Web Search Workshop addresses the challenges of web-scale natural language processing, with a focus on search-query spelling correction. The workshop will include a prize ceremony for the winners of the Speller Challenge and will provide a forum for participants to exchange ideas and share experience, encouraging community discussions about future research directions for spelling alteration in web search. The workshop website provides details of the workshop, including information on data services and resources, submission formats, and deadlines.

    Although the workshop is not limited to the Speller Challenge participants, we encourage the inclusion of the on-demand evaluation web application (for those who submitted theirs before registration closed) and the referenced testing dataset in prospective workshop submissions. These inclusions will facilitate the comparison of different systems and approaches against the same benchmark. We also ask that submitted systems be made publicly accessible throughout the workshop, to enable live demonstrations.

    The deadline for workshop submissions is June 25, so time is of the essence. If you are interested, submit your paper online.

    Evelyne Viegas, Director of Semantic Computing, Microsoft Research Connections

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