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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.

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Microsoft announces new research tools at the 2014 Faculty Summit

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    We’re here at the Microsoft Conference Center in Redmond, Washington, where the first day of the 2014 Microsoft Research Faculty Summit is underway. The event kicked off with an opening keynote from Harry Shum, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Development and Research group, during which he highlighted major efforts at Microsoft Research. Two of significance are the integration of Microsoft Academic Search into Bing with Cortana (Microsoft’s new personal digital assistant), and major improvements in computer vision via deep-learning techniques.

    Cortana is powered by Bing, and its tight integration of academic data into Bing search results means that Cortana will become a researcher’s dream assistant. Instead of treating information from the academic community in a separate search engine—as competitors do—Bing, and therefore Cortana, will treat scholarly information as a first-class citizen in search results.

    We were especially delighted and entertained when the computer-vision announcement was accompanied by the appearance of three show dogs on stage—a visual link to one of the project’s more arresting achievements: the ability to distinguish between the breeds. The system, code-named “Project Adam,” not only can “see” that an image is a dog, but it can accurately determine which of two very similar dog breeds it’s looking at. Project Adam uses deep-learning techniques to deliver a highly efficient, highly scalable distributed system that can perform computer-vision recognition and categorization tasks at world-record levels of performance.

    Harry Shum, Microsoft executive vice president of Technology and Research, greets a dog that took the stage as part of a demonstration of Project Adam, a world-record computer-vision effort to train a computer system that can, for example, identify dogs by breed. Harry Shum, Microsoft executive vice president of Technology and Research, greets a dog that took the stage as part of a demonstration of Project Adam, a world-record computer-vision effort to train a computer system that can, for example, identify dogs by breed.

    Following the keynote, Peter Lee joined Harry on stage to recognize the 2014 Microsoft Research Faculty Fellows. These seven early-career academics are pursuing some of the most exciting, high-impact areas of computer science, and we’re pleased that their fellowships will free them to devote their energies to research. The crowd was enthusiastic, as most of them know all too well the burdens of grant writing that the Faculty Fellowship alleviates.

    Perhaps most exciting to us, however, is knowing that this keynote was shared live with viewers around the world through our live stream of the Faculty Summit. Not only did our online audience get to watch the opening keynote and pose questions during the Q&A, they were also treated to an “online extra”: an extended, post-keynote interview with Harry.

    Up next is the session with Jeannette Wing, where our online attendees will be able to learn firsthand what the scientific community deems as Hot Topics. And throughout the course of the day, our online audience will be treated to eight in-depth interviews that will cover cutting-edge developments in online education, wildlife conservation, and the Internet of Things—just to mention a few of the topics. So fire up your web browser and tune in to the Faculty Summit—there are still hours of great content awaiting you.

    Judith Bishop, Director Computer Science, Microsoft Research

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  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    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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  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    New Spanish edition of “The Fourth Paradigm: Data Intensive Scientific Discovery”

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    "El Cuarto Paradigma," Spanish edition of "The Fourth Paradigm"I had the pleasure of joining members of the Mexican research community on May 28, 2014, to celebrate the launch of the Spanish edition of The Fourth Paradigm: Data Intensive Scientific Discovery, a seminal collection of essays that expand on the vision of pioneering computer scientist Jim Gray. The event took place in the beautiful Casa Rafael Galván cultural center at the Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM) in Mexico City, one of the most prestigious public universities in Mexico.

    This fascinating book's title refers to a concept in data-intensive science. The speed at which any given scientific discipline advances depends on how well its researchers collaborate with one another, and with computer scientists, in areas of eScience such as databases, workflow management, visualization, and cloud computing technologies. Gray envisioned a new "fourth paradigm" of discovery based on data-intensive science, and shared his insights into how it can be fully realized. The book expands on Gray's ideas through essays written by members of the scientific community.

    The Fourth Paradigm Spanish edition is the result of a partnership between UAM and Microsoft Research. We worked together on the translation and co-sponsored its publication. We also co-hosted the launch event, welcoming our colleagues from UAM, National Polytechnic Institute, National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT), and Microsoft Mexico, plus faculty and staff.

    Dr. Walter Beller, director of University Press at UAM, welcomed us to the event and discussed the importance of the project and the university's partnership with Microsoft Research. Tony Hey, vice president of Microsoft Research and one of the book's editors, made a pre-taped appearance onscreen. Tony highlighted the importance of how the new edition will extend the idea of data-intensive scientific discovery to a worldwide audience of Spanish speakers. He concluded by thanking everyone involved in the successful launch of the Spanish edition.

    Tony Hey, vice president of Microsoft Research and one of the book's editors, made a pre-taped appearance onscreen at the launch celebration.
    Tony Hey, vice president of Microsoft Research and one of the book's editors, made a pre-taped appearance onscreen at the launch celebration.

    We had many terrific speakers throughout the event. Harold Javid, director of Microsoft Research, formally unveiled the book and presented some applicability examples of the Fourth Paradigm to specific research scenarios. Dr. Luis Hernandez, director of Research Networks at CONACYT, reiterated the importance of translating material like The Fourth Paradigm into other languages to make it accessible to a broader audience. The discussion continued with additional presentations. Dr. Luis Villa, Director of the Center for Computing Research (CIC) at the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) spoke on the third chapter of the book, "Scientific Infrastructure," and related it to the Microsoft Azure for Research training session held at IPN in Mexico City, May 29–30, 2014. Other speakers that afternoon included Carlos Allende, public sector director from Microsoft Mexico, and me.

    While the event was definitely a celebration, it was also a great way to recognize the important role this translated work will play in the Spanish-speaking world. Sharing ideas and concepts is a critical part of the research lifecycle, but language barriers can make it difficult. This new, translated edition of Gray's innovative work means a broader audience, and potentially future generations of scientists, will now be able to explore his ideas and the concepts developed by using his work as a starting point. That is truly something worth celebrating.

    Jaime Puente, Director, Microsoft Research Latin America

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