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.

The warm heart of Chile embraces TouchDevelop and the Lab of Things

The warm heart of Chile embraces TouchDevelop and the Lab of Things

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Chile is a long way from Microsoft Research Redmond, but its bright, inquisitive students and talented, motivated professors share our fascination in the promise of innovative software technologies. Our shared values were on clear display when representatives from Microsoft Research visited the University of Chile and the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile on May 6, 2014. Such visits enable us to check our technologies in new environments, and they always raise interesting new avenues to pursue.

Professor Sergio Ochoa was our host at the University of Chile, the country’s oldest and largest institution of higher learning, with approximately 38,000 students spread across a full range of academic divisions.  The University of Chile was founded in 1842, the first in the country, and now has students in a full range of faculties and schools. We met faculty who had come from all over the world, enriching the domains and standards of the opportunities for the students.

At the University of Chile: Prof. Sergio Achoa, Dr. Michael Moskal, Dr. Judith Bishop, Prof. Maria Cecilia Bastarrica, Diego Muñoz, Prof. Alexandre Begel, Prof. Jeremy Barbay, and Dr. Mircea LunguAt the University of Chile, standing, from left: Prof. Sergio Ochoa, Dr. Michal Moskal, Dr. Judith Bishop, Prof. Maria Cecilia Bastarrica, Diego Muñoz, and Prof. Alexandre Begel. Kneeling from left: Prof. Jeremy Barbay and Dr. Mircea Lungu

While there, we presented a workshop entitled, “TouchDevelop: Create Rich Mobile Cloud Apps on Your Device” to students from the computer sciences department. During the workshop, students peppered us with perceptive questions, particularly about the cloud experience that TouchDevelop offers. In explanation, Michal Moskal, a researcher at Microsoft Research, developed a chat program in TouchDevelop, showing how data can be given a “cloud” tag that makes it updateable by many users simultaneously.

The obvious follow-up question was whether TouchDevelop could also enable several programmers to work on the same code simultaneously. We believe that teamwork is very important, and we were glad to be able to announce that this capability is being built into TouchDevelop and will be released soon.

Students work on multiple platforms with TouchDevelop at the University of Chile.
Students work on multiple platforms with TouchDevelop at the University of Chile.

At the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, Professor Andrés Neyem organized a workshop titled, “Lab of Things – Deploying Connected Devices for Research.” At the workshop, Arjmand Samuel and Ratul Mahajan, both from Microsoft Research, talked about the Lab of Things and how this platform could be used to scale up research that relies upon connected devices and sensors. Faculty and students who were present at the workshop raised interesting questions regarding the infrastructure, network protocols, and the security and privacy of data collected as part of such research. Professor Neyem also talked about his research interests in connecting healthcare devices in homes and beyond. Specifically, he showed a demonstration of a pulse-rate monitor that is being developed in collaboration with the university’s School of Nursing, which could be deployed to about 25 homes by using the Lab of Things.

As eager as the students and faculty were at both universities, we came away just as enthused about possible links with these outstanding institutions. We look forward to working with the University of Chile to improve TouchDevelop and expand its reach, and to collaborating with the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile in deploying the Internet of Things.

Judith Bishop, Director of Computer Science, Microsoft Research

Arjmand Samuel, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research

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