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Over the years, Microsoft Research Asia has fostered connections among a variety of people in the computer science and technology fields, especially by bringing together Microsoft researchers, interns, and university professors to collaborate on continuing projects. Such was the case when Microsoft Research Asia researcher Xing Xie and Osaka University Associate Professor Takahiro Hara began working together on privacy problems in 2008. Yuki Arase—then a second-year PhD student (under Hara) and Microsoft intern (under Xie)—helped bring the two together. They developed a great team chemistry, which endures to this day, as they continue to work on privacy issues related to location-based services (LBS).
Takahiro Hara, associate professor, Osaka University
LBS privacy protection is an important field for Microsoft Research and the broader computer science community, as we strive to safeguard the privacy of sensitive personal information on users’ electronic devices. The popularity of such LBS as Foursquare and Yelp, which link users to social networks, and Ingress, which provides an augmented-reality gaming platform, poses critical challenges to users’ private information. The security of this information is especially vulnerable as users use mobile devices to access cloud-based services.
Many past studies on location privacy preservation were based on unrealistic expectations about the user's movement pattern, such as assuming it is known in advance or that it will follow a very simple model. Professor Hara and his collaborators have taken a more advanced approach, in which they design and deploy a protocol based on the movements of “dummy” protocol applications that follow more realistic user mobility patterns.
This method can be readily deployed on any LBS that accepts multiple requests from users, eliminating the need for a third party to preserve privacy. Nor does it require changing server programs, because they are expected to run on LBS client-side applications. And since this approach assumes a more realistic model of mobility, it can be deployed in a wider variety of LBS types.
Currently, the collaborators are working to optimize their approach in two ways. The first step is to make reactive, real-time changes in the dummy’s movements, so that they mimic the user’s mobility pattern. The second step is to generate a dummy that takes into account the user’s preferences for visiting various points of interest.
The collaborative approach works not only in research but also in education. So, for example, undergraduates at Osaka University are producing dummy protocols in collaboration with Microsoft Research. The class has workshops of three or four students who team up and log their GPS locations from smart phones when walking though campus. Students feed this logged data into the LBS-privacy application and verify the difficulty of discerning the original user’s movements from the dummy locations produced by the protocol. Students praise how this real-life application has helped them understand the concept of privacy preservation.
Screen shot of dummy-protocol application
Through the efforts of students, post-graduate interns, researchers, and professors, Microsoft Research and its academic partners help advance computer science and technology, and help supply society with much-needed, talented engineers. For example, over the past seven years, five PhD students from Professor Hara’s labs have participated in Microsoft Research internships in web mining, multimedia, and information retrieval systems. These interns spent three to ten months in Microsoft Research Asia, conducting intensive research projects under the supervision and mentorship of various Microsoft researchers, all while experiencing a different culture and forging international friendships After graduation, Microsoft interns have joined respected companies, such as Fujitsu and KDDI, as engineers and researchers, putting their collaborative training to work for society.
The professional and personal relationships created during Microsoft Research’s collaborative endeavors often influence the participants well beyond the timespan of the specific project. As Professor Shojiro Nishio, a former Osaka University vice president and director of the university’s Cybermedia Center observers, “Our long-time collaboration with Microsoft Research has made significant contributions for not only research outcomes in top-ranked journals and conferences, but also in the education of young students, many of whom are now internationally leading researchers.”
This brings us back to Yuki Arase, the student who instigated the collaborative LBS-privacy project. After working for four years as a researcher in the Natural Language Computing Group at Microsoft Research Asia, she is now an associate professor at Osaka University’s Graduate School of Information Science and Technology and is co-leading a lab on big data engineering, educating the next generation of ambitious graduate students.
Professor Arase presenting at Microsoft Research Korea • Japan Academic Day
Professor Arase is thus a prime example of the fruitful chain reaction of collaboration. Her growing experience and expertise have produced continued achievements, which is precisely what we hope for from every Microsoft Research intern. As we strive to broaden the interaction between academia and Microsoft Research, we anticipate an exponential growth of such positive chain reactions resulting from our academic collaborations.
—Sean Kuno, Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research
Looking out the windows of Microsoft Korea’s headquarters, I enjoy a magnificent sight: Gyeongbok Palace, Seoul’s most recognizable landmark, which spreads below me in its centuries-old splendor. Another inspiring sight adorns the office walls around me: posters describing research projects from Korea and Japan, each project a result of the researchers’ collaboration with Microsoft Research. These posters are tangible reminders that we are celebrating the first Microsoft Research Korea • Japan Academic Day.
View from Microsoft Korea's headquarters, showing the Gyeongbok Palace and capturing a sliver of a banner announcing the first-ever Microsoft Research Korea • Japan Academic Day.
For the past decade, Microsoft Research has funded select research proposals from universities throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Each year, we’ve celebrated our collaborative efforts by hosting separate Korean and Japanese Days, events that shared the fruits of our joint research and solidified connections with and among Asian academics. These events strengthened our relationships in both countries, and this year, wanting to embrace a more open and international atmosphere in research and academia, we’ve combined the two. Thus on May 7, 2015, 120 academic researchers and distinguished guests—93 from Korea and 27 from Japan—joined with 22 computer scientists from Microsoft Research to share, learn, and get inspired by recent findings in advanced research.
Nearly 150 research scientists attended the Korea • Japan Academic Day.
The event kicked off with a warm welcome from Microsoft Korea General Manager James Kim, after which Hsiao-Wuen Hon, chairman of Microsoft Asia-Pacific Research and Development (ARD) Group and managing director of Microsoft Research Asia, shared Microsoft’s views on innovation and the company’s ultimate goal of empowering everyone to do more and achieve more. Next, P. Anandan, managing director of Microsoft Research Outreach, discussed how his group works with the academic community to foster research collaboration, talent development, academic exchange, and curriculum innovation, drawing examples from the notable research that is conducted in Korea and Japan. The welcoming ceremony concluded with Tim Pan, director of Microsoft Research Outreach Asia, introducing the Call for Proposal program, an initiative that empowers academics to collaborate with researchers beyond Microsoft Research, and expressing his optimism about such collaboration opportunities around the globe.
Following the opening, six computer scientists from Microsoft Research—Qiang Huo, Steve Lin, Masaaki Fukumoto, Tao Mei, Chin-Yew Lin, and Ming Zhou—described their recent work in optical character recognition and image recognition. They presented captivating demos of research prototypes and displayed some of the most popular recent Microsoft Research products, giving attendees a sense of the creativity that takes place at in the Microsoft labs.
At noon, while enjoying a light lunch, we had an interesting two-hour poster and demo session that featured 25 projects from Korea and 10 from Japan, each project presented by its justifiably proud owners. The session featured a competitive element, as the Korean projects vied for three prizes and the Japanese projects competed for four.
Lunchtime was all the more enjoyable thanks to the poster and demo presentations.
In the afternoon, the guests broke into eight topical groups: Search Mining; Graphics, Vision, and Interactions; Speech; Security; Wireless and Networks; Human-Computer Interaction; Systems; and Social Impact. Personnel from Microsoft Research hosted each group, while professors from Korea and Japan delivered talks related to their work. Thanks to the joint nature of the event, the sessions had a global perspective and provided guests with a bounty of research and provocative academic debate.
Thought-provoking breakout groups let researchers explore topics in depth.
After a full day of academic rigor, guests relaxed at a banquet, which culminated in the awards for the poster and demo session. The three Korean prizes went to:
The four Japanese prizes were awarded to:
Leading a toast to the guests and a successful event, from the left: Microsoft Korea General Manager James Kim, Microsoft ARD Group Chairman & Managing Director of Microsoft Research Asia Hsiao-Wuen Hon, and Managing Director of Microsoft Research Outreach P. Anandan
Throughout dinner, guests shared casual and meaningful chats, strengthening the relationships that foster cooperative innovation and discovery. Seated among seasoned professors who boast long-term collaborations with Microsoft Research were many young researchers—some of them former interns who now work full-time for Microsoft, others rising stars in academia who can look forward to upcoming internships with Microsoft Research. Whatever their age and wherever their careers take them, we look forward to their continued collaboration with us, as we continue to drive the research and talent ecosystem that connects Asian academia and Microsoft Research.
—Miran Lee, Principal Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research
This past January, Microsoft revealed to the world Microsoft Surface Hub, a state-of-the-art, large-format, pen and touch computing device—think of it as a digital whiteboard on steroids—that empowers our enterprise customers to collaborate, brainstorm, and get insight into their data.
This product brings together the very best of Microsoft capabilities, combining first-rate hardware in display, touch, and sensing, with a custom edition of Windows 10 specifically designed for communal scenarios, with integrated key productivity applications and services.
With Surface Hub, we are launching a completely new category of computing using the large screen for group productivity. This is a relatively young field with lots of greenfield opportunity, which is why we invite the academic research community to join us in advancing it.
Surface Hub has its roots in Perceptive Pixel, a company dedicated to multi-touch interfaces that formed out of my academic research at New York University Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. Here at Microsoft, participation in and support of the research community has always been a core part of our culture even as we’ve advanced on our commercial mission. This RFP exemplifies the academic-industry collaboration that is a hallmark of Microsoft Research.
On behalf of Microsoft Research and Microsoft Devices Group, I am thrilled to announce an RFP that will award a Surface Hub and up to US$25,000 to selected research proposals from qualified academic institutions.
We look forward to receiving submissions in a range of domains, including core HCI techniques (such as inking and sketch-based interfaces, pen and touch, large-screen interaction, proxemics, and multi-modal interfaces), collaboration, information visualization, and technology in education/training.
But what’s really great about Surface Hub is just how broadly its impact can reach. We are interested in proposals from any field, especially those that demonstrate alignment to Microsoft’s mission of productivity, and we expect rigorous work leading to novel contributions.
To learn more about the RFP, please visit Surface Hub for Research. The deadline for proposal submissions is June 12.
—Jeff Han, General Manager for Microsoft Surface Hub