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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.

  • Microsoft Research Outreach Blog

    Mobile Code Jam Rocks Vegas


    Top headliners on the Las Vegas strip might include Celine Dion, Penn and Teller, and Carrot Top, but from our perspective, they’ve got nothing on the Vegas premiers of such CCNC Mobile Code Jam stars as BlueWay and Fling-It. That’s right: during the second week of January, the top three submissions for each of the Project Hawaii and TouchDevelop Mobile Code Jam Challenges took the stage in Las Vegas during the 10th Annual IEEE Consumer Communications and Networking Conference (CCNC 2013), demonstrating their innovative applications while collecting prize money and basking in peer recognition.

    The main goal of the two contests was to encourage researchers and, especially, students to advance the field of mobile apps and services. And that they did, with innovative applications that ranged from games to aids for the visually impaired. Here’s the list of the winners:

    Project Hawaii Mobile Code Jam

    • First prize: BlueWay, an indoor multimedia navigation system, by José Fernández Gorroño of the Universidad Pontificia Comillas, Spain. BlueWay uses Bluetooth technology and Project Hawaii cloud services to turn the Windows Phone into an “indoor GPS” that can, for example, direct you from one subway platform to another, so you won’t miss that train home.

    • Second prize: Elves and Arrows, a fantasy game, by George Chen, Edward Lay, and Hui Min Lee of Singapore Management University, Singapore. Elves and Arrows employs gesture-based firing and compass-guided orientation to let your elfin avatar shoot arrows at opponents as you battle online.

    • Third prize: Lens of Reality, a text-reading application, by Muhammad Naveed, Qamber Ali, Madiha Qamar, and Farah Saher of NED University, Pakistan. Lens of Reality is designed to help the world’s 285 million visually impaired people by using the phone’s camera and photo storage capabilities to capture printed text and read it aloud.


    TouchDevelop Mobile Code Jam

    • First prize: Fling-It, a game that tests your ability to follow directions, by Robert Hemsley and Dan Sawada of the MIT Media Lab, United States. Fling-It utilizes the accelerometer and gyroscope on the phone, instructing users to execute various gestures, such as face up, face down, swipe right, and so forth. Multiple players can compete against each other, scoring points by following the directions precisely.
    • Second prize: Hungry Rabbit, a game that challenges your hand-eye coordination, by Jeevan Pokhrel and Indira Paudel of the Institut Mines-Telecom, France. The titular rabbit craves carrots, which fall from the top of the screen and must be directed by you to the voracious bunny. Players can compete against each other, with scores published on a leader board.
    • Third prize: RemoteBoard, a collaboration app that enables multiple users to share drawings on a touchscreen, by Yuhuan Du of the University of Texas at Austin, United States. Remote Board utilizes the Project Hawaii Relay Service to exchange data between clients, allowing users to share drawings or illustrations and work collaboratively—and to play tic-tac-toe.

    Congratulations to the winners and to all who entered the Mobile Code Jam. And just because the contests are over doesn’t mean that the fun is finished—not at all. You, too, can harness the power of Project Hawaii to develop Windows Phone apps that access a suite of cloud services, and you can use TouchDevelop to create apps on your tablet or smartphone— without the need for a separate PC. Maybe you can create the mobile app that brings Carrot Top live to your Windows Phone?

    Arjmand Samuel, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections

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  • Microsoft Research Outreach Blog

    Try F#—Data Console to Big and Broad Data


    Today, we are excited to announce the latest release of Try F#, a set of resources that makes it easy to learn and program with F# in your browser. It’s available over a wide range of platforms and doesn’t require a download of Microsoft Visual Studio. Try F# quickly reveals the value of the versatile F# programming language.

    Learn how to program in F#. Create and share code with the new release of Try F#

    Try F# enables users to learn F# through new tutorials that focus on solving real-world problems, including analytical programming quandaries of the sort that are encountered in finance and data science. But Try F# is much more than a set of tutorials. It lets users write code in the browser and share it with others on the web to help grow a community of F# developers.

    This latest release of Try F# is an evolution that keeps the tool in synch with the new experiences and information-rich programming features that are available in F# 3.0, the latest version of the language. The tutorials incorporate many domains, and help users understand F#’s new powerful “type providers” for data and service programming in the browser-based experience.

    F# has become an invaluable tool in accessing, integrating, visualizing, and sharing data analytics. Try F# thus has the potential to become the web-based data console for bringing “big and broad data,” including the associated metadata, from thousands of sources (eventually millions) to the fingertips of developers and data scientists. Try F# helps fill the need for robust tools and applications to browse, query, and analyze open and linked data. It promotes the use of open data to stimulate innovation and enable new forms of collaboration and knowledge creation.

    For example, to answer a straightforward question such as, “Is US healthcare cost-effective?” researchers now need to look at several datasets, going back and forth between an integrated development environment (IDE) and webpages to figure out if they’ve found what they need.

    With Try F#, a researcher can quickly and easily access thousands of schematized and strongly-typed datasets. This presents huge opportunities in today’s data-driven world, and we strongly encourage all developers and data scientists to use Try F# to seamlessly discover, access, analyze, and visualize big and broad data.

    Evelyne Viegas, Director of Semantic Computing, Microsoft Research Connections
    Kenji Takeda, Solutions Architect, Microsoft Research Connections

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  • Microsoft Research Outreach Blog

    Our Top 10 Blogs of 2012


    Once again, you’ve voted with your clicks and we’ve tallied the results. So…drumroll, please…here are the top 10 Microsoft Research Connections blogs of 2012.

    Our Top 10 Blogs of 2012

    Number 10: Try Try F#

    Who can resist such a redundantly titled post—especially when it offers information on how to get a browser-based tool for learning and exploring the power of F# 3.0? If you missed this one, we encourage you to “try try” it now.

    Number 9: Data Visualization Reaches New Heights with Layerscape

    Take a page from Jules Verne and journey to the center of the Earth with Layerscape, a free set of tools that gives researchers new ways of looking at lots and lots of data, both above and below the Earth’s surface. The author of this blog, Rob Fatland, was very excited about Layerscape. Apparently, our readers thought it was pretty cool, too.

    Number 8: Innovation in Software Research Recognized in 2012 SEIF Awards

    The Academy Awards put on a great show, but they’ve got nothing on the SEIF Awards in terms of impact. Just ask the many followers who avidly read about the SEIF 2012 winners and their groundbreaking applications of software engineering to mobile and cloud computing.

    Number 7: New Research Grants Aim at Combating Human Trafficking

    One of the greatest tragedies today is the burgeoning trade in human beings: human trafficking is now the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. Small wonder, then, that our readers were eager to learn about research into combatting this form of modern-day slavery.

    Number 6: Addressing the Need for More Women in Computer Science Programs

    Last year, women accounted for only 14 percent of computer science college graduates in the United States. This popular post explored the incongruous fact that half the nation’s population is so badly under-represented in computer science studies, especially in light of the bountiful job opportunities in computing.

    Number 5: No Language Left Behind

    Can you appreciate the debilitating effects of being linguistically cast adrift from the Internet? You will, after you join the readers who perused this blog post and learned how the Microsoft Translator Hub helps preserve lesser known ancestral languages and makes it easier for linguistically isolated people to communicate with the rest of the world. 

    Number 4: Inspiring Computer Science Students in Our Backyard

    It gets discouraging to read about the dismal numbers of students who pursue studies in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). This post gave readers a refreshing tonic to those gloomy statistics, as it profiles three programs that are taking action to get students excited about career opportunities in these fields.

    Number 3: From Smartphone to Smart Home: Automating the Modern Home

    The computer-controlled home is a reality—but until recently, only for the tech-savvy or wealthy. Here’s a blog post for the rest of us, explaining how Microsoft Research’s HomeOS is advancing the development of smartphone apps that put the smart home in reach of the general public.

    Number 2: Presenting the History of Everything

    Yes, it sounds like the title of a Mel Brooks movie, but this incredibly popular blog post offers provocative ideas instead of laughs. What if we had a tool that brought together all the disparate collections of historical information, cutting across temporal, geographic, and discipline boundaries? ChronoZoom promises to do just that. Skeptical? Then read about—and try—it for yourself.

    Number 1: TouchDevelop in Your Browser

    So, what tops the wish list for our readers? It's TouchDevelop, a browser-based development environment that not only lets you create apps directly on your smartphone, but now also on your tablet. We were pretty sure that Santa’s elves weren’t working on this, so we were delighted to learn that Microsoft Research’s TouchDevelop Web App fills the bill.

    And there you have it, the 10 most widely read Microsoft Research Connections blogs of 2012. We hope you’ll be back to read 2013’s posts, which we hope will be equally, if not more, inspiring! Happy New Year from your friends at Microsoft Research Connections!

    —Lisa Clawson, Senior Manager, Microsoft Research Connections


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