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Korea’s computer science talent sparkles at Microsoft Research Asia

Korea’s computer science talent sparkles at Microsoft Research Asia

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As part of Microsoft Research’s commitment to encouraging and supporting the up-and-coming generation of researchers worldwide, Microsoft Research Asia sponsored "Korea Day at Microsoft Research 2014" on June 9 in Beijing, China. The event was the culmination of a 10-month research project competition, which began in August 2013 when we selected creative, collaborative research projects from the top eight universities in Korea. Each of the 21 selected teams illustrated their research and outcomes through posters and displays during Korea Day, which more than 150 Microsoft Research Asia representatives attended.

Korean researchers at Microsoft Research AsiaKorean researchers at Microsoft Research Asia

Recognizing the top research projects

Among the many projects of merit, one in particular stood out to the judges—a cell phone app project named “NUGU: A Group-based Intervention App for Improving Self-Regulation on Smartphone Usage.” The app, developed by Professor Uijin Lee’s team from KAIST, is designed to help users reduce their cell phone usage through positive reinforcement in the form of an awards system. For example, if a user sets a goal not to use his or her smartphone for an hour during study time, the app will award points upon successful completion of the goal.

Project NUGU: A Group-based Intervention App for Improving Self-Regulation on Smartphone UsageProject NUGU: A Group-based Intervention App for Improving Self-Regulation on
Smartphone Usage

“I created this app after getting an idea from a psychological theory of an individual’s behavior being greatly affected by the people around them," says Minsam Go, a fourth-year PhD student at KAIST. "It lets the user earn points after completing the goal and makes the user compete with friends on who has higher points, which encourages the user to spend less time on his or her smartphone.”

The app won the first prize award of US$3,000, which Dr. Hsiao-Wuen Hon, managing director of Microsoft Research Asia, presented to the team at the Korea Day event.

Left: Professor Uichin Lee, KAIST and Hsiao-Wuen Hon, managing director of Microsoft Research Asia; Right: Professor Seung-won Hwang, POSTECH and Hyunseek Lee, senior vice president, National IT Industry Promotion AgencyLeft: Professor Uichin Lee, KAIST and Hsiao-Wuen Hon, managing director of Microsoft Research Asia
Right: Professor Seung-won Hwang, POSTECH and Hyunseek Lee, senior vice president, National IT Industry Promotion Agency

Second place went to Professor Seung-won Hwang's POSTECH team, which presented “Spatiality and Temporality Footprint for Entity Understanding.” Two teams tied for third place: Professor Hyogon Kim’s Korea University team, with “Software Defined Radio on a Smartphone,” and Professor Nam-Jong Paik’s Seoul National University team, with “Stroke Recovery with Kinect.”

Left: Professor Nam-Jong Paik, Seoul National University of College of Medicine, and Tim Pan, university relations director of Microsoft Research Asia; Right: Professor Hyogon Kim, Korea University and Tim PanLeft: Professor Nam-Jong Paik, Seoul National University of College of Medicine, and Tim Pan, university relations director of Microsoft Research Asia
Right: Professor Hyogon Kim, Korea University and Tim Pan

Building collaborative relationships and sharing insights

Recognizing the great work done by the university teams was just the beginning of the event. We wanted to encourage participants—from both Microsoft Research Asia and the universities—to build collaborative relationships and share their research insights.

Many of the day's presentations demonstrated the technologies that will play a role in Korea's future IT competitiveness. For example, Professor Seungyong Lee's team displayed a technology involving Kinect for Windows. It uses the Kinect sensor to scan a room, and then uses spatial positioning technology to create a computerized 3D panorama of the room and its contents that can be viewed from any angle. “Kinect was originally developed for Xbox, but it has been used in various research projects other than video games, as it has an ability to measure the depths of space," Lee notes. "The technology enables the user to transfer 3D interior space into the computer as it is.”

Interactive 3D Floor Plan Reconstruction from RGB-D Images, from Professor Seungyong Lee’s teamInteractive 3D Floor Plan Reconstruction from RGB-D Images, from Professor Seungyong
Lee’s team

It is similar to applying an Internet mapping service such as Street View, but mapping indoor areas. Unlike Street View, which puts several 2D photos together, the technology enables the user to feel the depth and 3D effects of space. “From now on, the interior images of buildings can be transferred to a computer like this," Lee remarks. For example, "It can be used for firefighters to see the burning building’s interior before they begin the rescue, or the general public can use it to rearrange their home furniture, or for interior design.”

Another notable project presented during the event came from Korea University Professor Haechang Lim's team. The group developed a system that uses natural language and big data to assess commercial brands—or people—on Twitter.

"In the past, a survey had to be done manually to examine the customer image on brands, which costs a lot of money and time," explains Mincheol Yang, a third-year doctorate student. "Now, the consumers are voluntarily expressing their opinions on social network services."

Korea Day participants gathered in the Microsoft Research Asia Sky GardenKorea Day participants gathered in the Microsoft Research Asia Sky Garden

We enjoyed seeing the results of the excellent research and project work on Korea Day. All of the teams worked very hard and did a great job. We extend our congratulations to all the participants, and we look forward to seeing great things from all of you in the future.

—Miran Lee, Principle Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Asia

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