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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

    Remedying the search for reliable drug info

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    Remedy, a prototype search system, helps people assess useful medication-related Internet search results.Healthcare providers increasingly appreciate the value of patients having access to accurate and understandable information about their health and treatments. This is why Microsoft Research’s Dan Morris and a team of researchers at Columbia University, led by Professor Lauren Wilcox, have been working to develop Patient Friendly Medical Displays that automatically create simplified, personalized, plain-language views of the information in a patient’s electronic health record.
     
    Now this team of researchers has developed Remedy, a prototype search system that assists laypeople in assessing medication-related Internet search results. General-purpose web search engines give a broad array of results, without providing tools to help people narrow in on technical or non-technical content, avoid ads, and spot indicators of quality and credibility. Remedy supports rapid filtering and comparison of medication-information search results, based on a number of website features and content topics. It thus helps users find reliable, patient-friendly educational material more easily. Remedy summarizes the topics that it finds in the search results and lets users navigate to websites according to these topics. It also provides a topic-based view in which users can see what multiple sites have to say about a single topic of interest. This video shows how Remedy helps patients find relevant, reliable information about their medications. 

    Remedy was tested with patients in the cardiac aftercare unit at New York Presbyterian Hospital. The researchers are evaluating the outcomes of this pilot study, but initial results indicate that patients were enthusiastic about using Remedy. A second, more substantial hospital study is under consideration based on these positive indications. In addition, Remedy was demonstrated at the 7th International Conference on Pervasive Computing Technologies for Healthcare in Venice, Italy, May 5–8, 2013.

    Although Remedy is still a prototype at this stage, the initial positive reaction to it bodes well for further research and development on tools to ensure that patients can easily access and understand reliable information about their medications, health, and medical treatments.

    —Simon Mercer, Director, Microsoft Research Connections

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    Format: mp4
    Duration: 1 minute 56 seconds

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Kinect for Windows SDK Beta Makes It Big in the Big Apple

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    The Kinect for Windows SDK beta was honored as one of the “10 Most Innovative Tech Products of 2011” earlier this week at the 2011 Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Awards ceremony held at the Hearst Tower in New York City. Gavin Jancke, general manager of Engineering for Microsoft Research, who led the engineering and release for the Microsoft Research release of the Kinect for Windows SDK beta, accepted the award on behalf of Microsoft.

    Award recipients were invited to demonstrate their technologies at a reception following the seventh annual ceremony. Gavin presented the SDK (software development kit) from a developer perspective discussing, among other things, skeletal tracking and raw sensor data. Jacob Vanderplas, an astronomer at the University of Washington, further illustrated the potential applications of the SDK in natural user interface (NUI) technologies with a presentation of the Kinect-controlled WorldWide Telescope concept demonstrator.

    From left to right: Jim Meigs, editor in chief of Popular Mechanics; Gavin Jancke, general manager, Engineering, Microsoft Research;  Bill Congdon, publisher of Popular Mechanics, pictured at the Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Awards ceremony

    From left to right: Jim Meigs, editor in chief of Popular Mechanics; Gavin Jancke, general manager of Engineering for Microsoft Research; and Bill Congdon, publisher of Popular Mechanics, pictured at the Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Awards ceremony

    The ceremony was our second visit to New York City in as many months. Previously, we were pleased to present the SDK at the World Maker Faire 2011, which was held at the New York Hall of Science in late September. Maker Faire is an inspiring showcase of creativity and cool technology that celebrates technology enthusiasts of all ages. This year’s event attracted 35,000 attendees, up 40 percent from the previous year.

    Presenting at Maker Faire 2011

    We were joined at this year’s Maker Faire by our colleagues from Microsoft Robotics and Microsoft .NET Gadgeteer. Our teams jointly exhibited in a combined tent. We offered attendees just a taste of our technologies that are available for hobbyists, enthusiasts, and educators. The showpieces in our tent were the newly launched Robotics Developer Studio 4 beta and a new reference design robot, EDDIE, available from Parallax, Inc. We also presented two Kinect SDK beta demos: on-board robot sensing and NUI robot control—including a roving “party photographer” robot that proved very popular with young and old alike.

    In addition to demonstrating our technologies, we were also honored with two awards at the Maker Faire: an inaugural “Makey” award for Kinect, and an “Editor’s Choice” blue ribbon for our combined booth. It was fantastic to see so many people inspired by technology, including our own. We continue to look forward to seeing your inventions and ideas come to fruition.

    Stewart Tansley, Director of Natural User Interface, Microsoft Research Connections

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    Users Attract New Users to WorldWide Telescope

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    I’ve done numerous public presentations of WorldWide Telescope (WWT) since 2008, but last month’s demos at the International Astronomical Union’s 2012 General Assembly (IAU2012) in Beijing were by far the most satisfying. Why? Because they were conducted primarily by student volunteers, eager to showcase the capabilities of WWT to potential users.

    The exhibition at IAU2012 lasted two weeks, from August 20 to 31. Most of that time, our booth was staffed by four future scientists: Qing Wang of China Central Normal University, Hope Chen and Chris Faesi of Harvard University, and Bing Bai of Chongqing University. These student volunteers impressed visitors with their knowledge and poise, and “wowed” them with their WWT demos.

    Student volunteers (left to right): Hope Chen, Bing Bai, Qing Wang, and Christopher Faesi
    Student volunteers (left to right): Hope Chen, Bing Bai, Qing Wang, and Christopher Faesi

    Chris summed up the visitors’ reactions nicely: “The most frequent comment I heard was some variation of ‘Wow—this is really free? That's amazing!’ I am quite certain that we raised awareness of WWT and generated a great impression of Microsoft.”
     
    Indeed, WWT is one of the best data and information visualization technologies from Microsoft Research, and, yes, it is free for academic use. Since its public release in early 2008, WWT has been adopted by a growing legion of astronomical researchers and science educators. The success of WWT at IAU2012, and the way we made it successful, marks a milestone of WWT outreach: the users are attracting more users. And that’s how we can grow a user community exponentially.

    Want to see what all the excitement is about? Then download WWT—like the IAU visitors said, it’s amazing. And free!
     
    My special thanks go to Professor Alyssa Goodman of Harvard University for recommending Hope Chen and Chris Faesi, to Professor Cuilan Qiao of China Central Normal University and Dr. Chenzhou Cui of the National Astronomical Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences for recommending Qing Wang and Bing Bai—and for providing guidance and support at the booth, and to Professor Jing Yang of Beijing Normal University and Ms. Haoyi Wan of the Beijing Planetarium for their support at the booth. 
     
    Yan Xu, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections 

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