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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

    Jammin’ with Cloud-Enabled Apps

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    Project Hawaii Mobile Code Jam ChallengeAre you a student looking to win a little extra spending money? Or maybe just get some props for your coding chops? If so, you’ll want to enter your Windows Phone or Windows 8 app in the Project Hawaii Mobile Code Jam Challenge. But you’d better act quickly—you’ll need to register your project by October 30.

    The Code Jam is being featured as an integral part of the upcoming IEEE Consumer Communications & Networking Conference (CCNC 2013), where three winners will be selected. The first-place winner will receive US$1,500; the second-place winner, $1,000; and the third-place winner, $700. Not bad, especially since you’ll get recognized in front of your peers at CCNC. And you can win some money to blow in Vegas.

    Your project must be an app that runs on Windows Phone (version 7.5) or Windows 8, and it must use one or more of the Project Hawaii services. Oh, and it has to be available for use, free of charge, in academic and research settings. Visit the Mobile Code Jam site for full contest details.

    So, you ask, what are the Project Hawaii services? Well, with Project Hawaii, you can develop cloud-enhanced Windows Phone apps that access a set of cloud services, which includes Social Mobile Sharing Service (SMASH), Path Prediction, Key Value, Translator, Optical Character Recognition, Speech to Text, Relay, and Rendezvous. Learn more.

    While prizes and recognition are certainly nice, the main goal of the contest is to encourage researchers and, especially, students to advance the field of mobile apps and services. You can dream up any scenario you want: maybe an app that solves a societal problem, or one that uses mobile technology to help the elderly or infirm. Or maybe something to beat the odds at pai gow. You’re bound only by your creativity and imagination.

    As noted above, you’ll need to register your project by October 30. The other key date is December 14, which is the deadline for submitting your overview paper describing your entry. You’re encouraged to prepare as much documentation as possible, including examples of how the app might be used and screenshots or other displays showing the software in action. Entries will be peer-reviewed and finalists will be invited to demonstrate their software to a panel of judges during the conference program.

    Remember, if you want to kick out the jams at IEEE CCNC, you’ll need to register your project by October 30. If the trick-or-treaters show up and you’re still pondering your entry, you’re out of luck, so get jammin’.

    Arjmand Samuel, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections

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    ChronoZoom Receives Digital Education Achievement Award

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    Many of you have heard me talk passionately about ChronoZoom over the past year, especially about our goal to bridge the gap between the sciences and humanities through this amazing open-source tool, which strives to capture the history of everything. I love the amazing breadth of these ambitions.

    Another thing I love about ChronoZoom is how it was created by the academic community, with assistance from Microsoft through Microsoft Research Connections. The academic part of the ChronoZoom team has had a very busy summer, delivering two releases independently, without any coaching from the Microsoft engineering team. I urge you to check out the new features and download the source code on Codeplex.

    I had a fabulous time working with our community leader, Roland Saekow of the University of California, Berkeley, as we presented ChronoZoom at the International Big History Association Conference at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. I’d like to hand this blog over to Roland, to tell you about a great tribute the team received this summer!

    Rane Johnson-Stempson, Principal Research Director for Education and Scholarly Communication, Microsoft Research Connections
     

    Three years ago, I was a student at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), taking a course on the history of everything. The course was titled “Big History: Cosmos, Earth, Life and Humanity.” Taught by Professor Walter Alvarez, it covered everything from the Big Bang to modern man. One of the most challenging aspects of a Big History course is grasping the timescales– all 13.7 billion years. To meet this challenge, Professor Alvarez and I set out to create a dynamic, zoomable timeline. Three years later, after much hard work by incredible teams of people, ChronoZoom received the seventeenth annual Digital Education Achievement Award.

    Chris Engberg (left) and Roland Saekow (right) accept the Digital Education Achievement award on behalf of the ChronoZoom team from the Center for Digital Education, represented by Kristy Fifelski, New Media Dirctor, e.Republic Inc. (center). 
    Chris Engberg (left) and Roland Saekow (right) accept the Digital Education Achievement award on behalf of the ChronoZoom team from the Center for Digital Education, represented by Kristy Fifelski, New Media Director, e.Republic Inc. (center). Image courtesy of the Center for Digital Education

    This award, which is presented by the Center for Digital Education (a division of e.Republic), recognizes the results of countless hours of planning, discussion, prototyping, and development—the collaborative efforts of dedicated and passionate individuals from all over the world. Our team includes software engineers, program managers, and project leaders at Microsoft Research Connections in Redmond, Washington, and students and professors at Moscow State University in Russia and at UC Berkeley. This dispersed team developed cutting-edge HTML5 code and implemented services on Windows Azure to create a rich, visual database full of historical events and timelines.

    Roland Saekow answers questions during the Digital Education Achievement Award panelOne aspect of the ChronoZoom project I find fascinating is that students—undergraduates, graduates, and postdocs—wrote nearly 80 percent of the code in today’s beta release. This award recognizes the successful collaboration between experienced veterans of the computer science world and students who have been inspired and mentored with great care and passion to do outstanding work.
     
    Work on ChronoZoom began as a dream—a hopeful vision into the future. Not only did the right people have to come together at the same moment, but they also had to learn to work together in near perfect synchronization to transform our dream into a reality.
     
    I am very proud of everyone on the team, and I look forward to our continued success. As an open-source project, we continue to grow our team, and take with us the experience in collaboration that Microsoft Research fostered. We invite you to join us on this journey to bring history to life.
     
     Roland Saekow, ChronoZoom Community Lead, University of California, Berkeley

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    Finding Truths in Chicago

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    I have just returned from the ninth annual Microsoft eScience Workshop, held in conjunction with the 2012 IEEE International Conference on eScience, at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. As in previous years, the Microsoft workshop focused on exploring where we are now and what future progress we can anticipate in extending science through computing. True to the conference theme, eScience in Action, computer science and scientific discovery merged into a lively discussion of results.

    eScience in Action: Learn about the recent eScience Workshop

    The keynotes supported the theme: Drew Purves of Microsoft Research Cambridge shared computer-based environmental models. We saw geographical visualizations of continent-wide temperature variations, measured and modeled. David Heckerman of Microsoft Research described the trend in computational biology, providing examples from genomics to vaccines. Antony Williams, the 2012 Jim Gray eScience Award winner, used his work on ChemSpider to show us how scientists can stand on the shoulders of others through easy access to scientific knowledge through the web. ChemSpider, an Internet-based chemical database, provides access to data on the profusion of new chemical compounds that are being identified and explored in the growing community of chemistry researchers.

    The workshop breakout sessions covered a breadth of topics, ranging from the contributions that citizen scientists can offer to the knowledge that new generations of data scientists will need. Perspectives were diverse, and I came away impressed by the maturity of the community and the richness of the discussion.

    As I look back over the two days of the workshop, I remember being taught as a child—by my grandmother, who possessed timeless wisdom—that I must always assess truth for myself, and not necessarily trust what the media present in such beauty. In many ways, this lesson, drummed into me when knowledge was mainly passed on in unsearchable print, was the underlying theme of this eScience Workshop. Web designers certainly know how to package information and make it beautiful, but to discover the truth the seeker must look more deeply. Drew Purves’s presentation showed results, but the challenge he posed was the “defensibility” of models: how can we know that they are predicting accurately? David Heckerman shared how pharmacists of the future will check prescriptions against an individual’s genome to help identify which prescription will be most effective—yet another discovery of what’s true. Antony Williams opened our eyes to the challenge of determining the accuracy of chemical data already on the Internet.

    Looked at in one way, every presentation was about truth, whether a citizen scientist’s contribution to her community was accurate, whether the scientific results in a publication could be replicated, or whether we can trace the code and data that together generated a result. You can view the keynotes and session presentations and see for yourself if what I am saying is true.

    —Harold Javid, Director, Microsoft Research Connections

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